Preview: Cardiff Blues A v Connacht Eagles

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The Celtic Cup is back at the Arms Park for the first time in three weeks as Cardiff Blues A take on Connacht Eagles with a 2.30pm kick-off on Saturday.

It’s been a tough two weeks away for Gethin Jenkins and T Rhys Thomas’ young squad, as they went down to heavy defeats away at Ospreys Development and Munster A, as they have had to rely on a number of players from the lower Welsh leagues.

The games don’t get any easier either, as this week’s opponents in Connacht Eagles are currently third in the league, with four wins and just a solitary defeat coming from their matches so far.

Over the last two weeks they have been at home in the West of Ireland, welcoming Munster A and Scarlets A to Galway, winning 38-27 and 20-16 respectively, and are now looking to complete a clean sweep against the Welsh sides having beaten Ospreys Development and Dragons A earlier in the campaign.

Connacht have made four changes to the team that beat Scarlets A last week, two of which see new starting props with Matthew Burke and Conor Kenny coming in, while Joe Maksymiw starts as second row.

The other change comes in the backs where Diarmuid Kilgannen is named on the wing.

Connacht A: Conor Hayes, Diarmuid Kilgannen, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien, Peter Sullivan, Luke Carty, Stephen Kerins; Matthew Burke, Dylan Tierney-Martin, Conor Kenny, Cormac Daly, Joe Maksymiw, Niall Murray, Lucas Culliton, Seán Masterson

Replacements: Declan Adamson, Conor Maguire, Adam Coyle, Hubert Costello, Joshua Dunne, Aran Hehir, Conor Dean, Hugh Lane

On the other side there are seven changes to the Cardiff Blues A team that lost in Munster last week, as Jenkins and Thomas are able to welcome back a number of Indigo Group Premiership players.

Cardiff RFC’s Brynley Toms, Barney Nightingale and Joe Gatt come in at loosehead, inside centre and winger respectively, while Merthyr winger Sam Jones starts, and Pontypridd’s fly-half Diggy Bird is on the bench.

Elsewhere the Academy’s Teddy Williams is in at lock, Cardiff Met’s Aled Ward starts at blindside and Welsh Exiles’ Gwilym Bradley is named at openside. Alun Lawrence captains the side from eight.

Also on the bench is Lewis Francis, who has been playing for Cardiff on permit from Bedwas, the Blue and Blacks’ Ollie Drake, and James Down who returns from injury for his first appearance of the season.

Cardiff Blues A: Ioan Davies, Sam Jones, Dafydd Smith, Barney Nightingale, Joe Gatt, Rhys Davies, Ethan Lloyd; Bryn Thomas, Ethan Lewis, Will Davies-King, Teddy Williams, Ben Murphy, Aled Ward, Gwilym Bradley, Alun Lawrence (c)

Replacements: Cameron Lewis, Lewis Francis, Ollie Drake, James Down, Tim Grey, Zach Bartlett, Diggy Bird, Mason Grady

With the addition of some Premiership players rather than Championship faces then the improving performances may translate into the scoring of more points for Cardiff Blues A.

However, up against such a strong team it will be an incredibly tough ask for the young and inexperienced side.

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