Cardiff Blues are looking to make it two wins from two to start this season’s European Challenge Cup campaign on Saturday night as Leicester Tigers arrive at the Arms Park, kick-off 8pm.
The titanic Anglo-Welsh clash is on the back of a 16-38 win over Calvisano in Northern Italy last week, with John Mulvihill’s men working hard for the win after only being a point in the lead at the 65 minute mark. However, three tries in 12 minutes secured the bonus point victory.
That followed the win over Cheetahs in the Guinness Pro14 the week before, which had put an end to a run of four straight league losses, with Cardiff Blues starting to turn a corner this season it appears.
Leicester Tigers have also had a tough start to the season, with a solitary win over London Irish so far leaving them at the foot of the Gallagher Premiership heading into the European break, although Saracens accepting their points deduction have subsequently seen them drop to the bottom of the league.
They bounced back last week with a 41-20 home win over Pau though, with four tries from Wales international winger Jonah Holmes helping them to a bonus point at Welford Road.
Interestingly, head coach Geordan Murphy has rung the changes this week, keeping his England internationals fresh for a crunch league game away at Northampton Saints next weekend, rather than looking to build momentum with a second win in a row at the Arms Park.
The likes of Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, George Ford and Manu Tuilagi all drop out of the 23, with 13 changes in all as only Tomas Lavanini at lock and EW Viljoen, who moves from full-back to inside centre, retaining their places in the starting XV.
There is still plenty of quality in the squad though, with Ellis Genge starting at loosehead after being part of the England squad in Japan, and Joe Kerr at hooker having made his Scotland debut this year, while Joe Heyes, Sam Lewis, Ben White and Tom Hardwick are all recent England U20 caps.
Guy Thompson, Andy Forsyth and Adam Thompstone are all experienced domestic level operators while there are two strong Welsh connections as former Ospreys centre Joe Thomas starts at 13, while Wales U20 fly-half Sam Costelow is named on the bench.
Leicester Tigers: George Worth, Adam Thompstone, Joe Thomas, EW Viljoen, Andy Forsyth, Tom Hardwick, Ben White (c); Ellis Genge, Jake Kerr, Joe Heyes, Tomás Lavanini, Harry Wells, Sam Lewis, Guy Thompson, Jordan Coghlan
Replacements: Charlie Clare, Facundo Gigena, Nephi Leatigaga, Cameron Jordan, Thom Smith, Harry Simmons, Sam Costelow, Freddie Steward
John Mulvihill has also made a number of changes to his starting XV from that which beat Calvisano this week, but has gone the other way to Leicester in that his changes strengthen the Cardiff Blues on paper.
Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Will Boyde, Nick Williams, Lloyd Williams and Aled Summerhill all return having been rested last week, as Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill, Keiron Assiratti, Macauley Cook, James Botham, Lewis Jones and Matthew Morgan drop to the bench.
The headline selections come in the form of Hallam Amos and Owen Lane though, as they return from Rugby World Cup duty with Wales and the former can finally make his debut at the Arms Park after a summer move from the Dragons.
Jason Tovey returns to the matchday squad on the bench after recovering from the ankle knock he picked up against Cheetahs two weeks ago.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Aled Summerhill, Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams (c); Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Will Boyde, Nick Williams
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Keiron Assiratti, Macauley Cook, James Botham, Lewis Jones, Jason Tovey, Matthew Morgan
The big question heading into the game is will a win on Saturday constitute revenge for May 2009, when Leicester knocked us out of the Heineken Cup semi-finals on a penalty shootout after a 26-26 draw in normal time at the Principality Stadium.
I’m not going to sit here and write that ‘yes, it absolutely will’, but in the immortal words of one Kevin Keegan ‘I will love it if we beat them’.
No amount of winning can take the heart of that day away, but it can go some way to mending the heart break, and should provide plenty of motivation for player and supporters alike. Come on Cardiff!