It’s the Battle of the Blues at Goldington Road on Saturday as Bedford and Cardiff play for the very unofficial, and actually non-existent, Mike Rayer Cup in a pre-season friendly.
Rayer is now Director of Rugby at the English side but is Cardiff born and Cardiff bred, playing 367 times for the Blue and Blacks in two spells spanning 17 years, scoring 90 tries as part of an overall points total of 1422.
He led Bedford to a very credible third place in the Greene King Championship last season, behind big spending Ealing Trailfinders and London Irish, but ahead of traditional big hitters in the English second tier such as Jersey Reds and Cornish Pirates.
It will be the first time the teams have met though, having even avoided each other in the British and Irish Cup, with Saturday’s home side having never made the Gallagher Premiership along with it’s subsequent European qualification.
Rayer names a team without much experience at the higher level, although scrum-half Grayson Hart bucks that trend having played Super Rugby when younger before heading to Scotland where he featured for Glasgow and Edinburgh, earning international honours up there as well.
Elsewhere, second row Jordan Onojaife is a former England U20 international, while Richard Lane is formerly of Bath. Number eight Huw Worthington is the only Welshman having played for RGC and featured for the Dragons in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Bedford Blues: Rich Lane, Pat Tapley, Ryan Hutler, Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, Charlie Reed, Sam Leeming, Grayson Hart; Sean McCarthy (c), Jacob Fields, Alex Penny, Will Carrick Smith, Jordan Onojaife, Oli Curry, Josh Buggea, Huw Worthington
Replacements: Robbie Smith, Joe Wrafter, Henry Paul, Ed Taylor, Joe Atkinson, Dan Temm, James Lennon, Joe Green
John Mulvihill has taken the chance to give his non-Welsh qualified players the chance to stretch their legs this week as they cannot play in the Celtic Cup, with Dmitri Arhip and Willis Halaholo starting while Nick Williams captains the side.
New signings Will Boyde and Jason Tovey are also named in the starting XV, while Ioan Davies gets the chance to impress from the left wing, the only member of the XV who doesn’t have Guinness Pro14 experience.
On the bench there are spots for Rhys Gill, Kris Dacey, Scott Andrews, Josh Turnbull and Olly Robinson, all of whom have undergone surgery over the summer but now return to fitness.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Jason Harries, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Ioan Davies; Jason Tovey, Lewis Jones; Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Will Boyde, Nick Williams (c)
Replacements: Kris Dacey, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Ben Murphy, Olly Robinson, Jamie Hill, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill, Josh Turnbull, Alun Lawrence
An important game despite being a pre-season friendly as it is the one and only chance for the Cardiff Blues first team to get on the field together before the Guinness Pro14 season kicks off away at Southern Kings in two weeks.
Fitness and match sharpness will of course be key, but equally as important is seeing new partnerships beginning to click and confidence being built as John Mulvihill’s men look to start the season at a high level.
With the World Cup dominating the first few weeks of the season getting off to a good start will be huge if Cardiff Blues are to achieve the aim of making the play-offs.