The Celtic Cup reaches the halfway point tonight as Cardiff Blues A travel to Bridgend’s Brewery Field to take on Ospreys Development, 7.15pm kick-off.
So far the competition has been a mixed bag, with results following team selection decisions, as squads made up of largely Indigo Group Premiership players suffered defeat against Leinster A and Ulster A, before a mix of first team and Academy players beat Dragons A last weekend.
That leaves Cardiff Blues A in sixth place in the Celtic Cup table, but only three points off Connacht Eagles in third place, and with only one game left to play in Ireland, against Munster A next week.
Tonight’s opponents Ospreys Development are the team who have taken over from ourselves in propping up the table, with just a draw and two losses to their name from the three rounds so far.
The draw came out in Munster in round one, with a 20-20 scoreline, before heavy losses followed against Connacht and Scarlets A, falling 19-40 and 55-14 in successive weeks.
Head coach Richard Fussell has made a number of changes to his team that lost to Scarlets last week, starting up front where two former Wales U20 players, loosehead prop Rhys Davies and openside Will Jones come in to the pack, as well as Jay Williams who captains the side of the second row.
In the backs the half-backs remain the same, but former Cardiff Blues Academy centre Cameron Lewis, now with Wales 7s, comes in wearing 12, while Phil Jones is named at full-back with Dewi Cross sliding out to the wing.
There are two familiar faces to the club scene in the Cardiff Blues region on the Ospreys bench, with former Merthyr prop Ben Warren and former Pontypridd second row Shay Smallman set to take the field.
Ospreys Development: Phil Jones, Ben Cambriani, Callum Carson, Cameron Lewis, Dewi Cross, Josh Thomas, Connor Tantum; Rhys Davies, Garin Lloyd, Jordan Pritchard, Matt Dodd, Jay Williams (c), Joe Grabham, Will Jones, Iwan Shenton
Replacements: Josh Moore, Tom Sloane, Ben Warren, Shay Smallman, Travis Huntley, Liam Seaward, Bradley Roderick, Frankie Jones
Cardiff Blues A joint-head coaches Gethin Jenkins and T Rhys Thomas, on the other hand, have had to make wholesale changes after the game against Dragons was treated as a de-facto pre-season friendly.
Only Will Davies-King and Macauley Cook, who captains the team this week, remain in the starting XV, with Ethan Lewis stepping up from the bench to start at hooker, while Tim Grey is recalled to start at number eight.
They are joined by a number of Senior Academy players, with Teddy Williams, James Botham, Rhys Davies and Alex Varney in the side, and Wales 7s’ Dafydd Smith starting on the wing, while Theo Bevacqua, Ethan Lloyd, Mason Grady and Jacob Beetham are included from Cardiff Blues U18.
The rest of the squad then sees Cardiff Met 1st XV captain Aled Ward and Glamorgan Wanderers centre Josh Male in the starting XV, with other club players getting a chance on the bench in the form of Cardiff Uni’s Freddie Barnes, Wales Exiles’ Gwilym Bradley, Cardiff Harlequins’ Zach Bartlett and Bedlinog’s Dylan Williams.
Cardiff Blues Senior Academy’s Cameron Lewis and Ben Warren, and Rhys Anstey and Theo Cabango of the U18s complete a youthful team.
Cardiff Blues A: Jacob Beetham, Dafydd Smith, Mason Grady, Josh Male, Alex Varney, Rhys Davies, Ethan Lloyd; Theo Bevacqua, Ethan Lewis, Will Davies King, Teddy Williams, Macauley Cook (c), Aled Ward, James Botham, Tim Grey
Replacements: Cameron Lewis, Freddie Barnes, Ben Warren, Rhys Anstey, Gwilym Bradley, Zak Bartlett, Theo Cabango, Dylan Williams
With a third generation of team selection coming against the Ospreys it’s another unknown in regards to how Cardiff Blues perform, especially with a number of U18s involved.
However it’s a great opportunity for those youngsters to experience senior rugby in a professional environment for the first time, and playing alongside some excellent talent in the Senior Academy will only do them good.