It’s a top of the table clash at the Arms Park on Friday night as first place Cardiff RFC take on second place Aberavon in the Indigo Group Premiership, 7.30pm kick-off.
The Blue and Blacks are currently 11 points ahead of the Wizards after seven rounds of the league, having won every game this season including in the Specsavers Cup. The most recent win came last week against bottom side Bridgend at the Brewery Field.
Aberavon do have a game-in-hand though after a postponed game in poor weather three weeks ago, and they will know that a win in the capital puts them right back in the hunt for first place early in the season.
A defeat against lowly Llanelli at home last week was a shock result, and how they bounce back from that will be key to this weekend’s outcome, especially with the knowledge they have lost on their last two visits to the Arms Park.
The most recent of those was the last fixture between the sides back in March, when tries from Morgan Allen and Will Rees-Hole, as well as the boot of Gareth Thompson, secured a 26-20 win for Cardiff.
Aberavon coach Jason Hyatt has made six changes to his team on the back of the loss to Llanelli, with two coming up front as Rowan Jenkins and Luke Davies come in at loosehead and hooker respectively, while Ben Thomas replaces Sam Williams in the second row.
In the backs Aled Thomas, formerly of Scarlets, starts at fly-half, while Will Price is new at incside centre and Garyn Payne is selected on the wing. Former Pontypridd lock Shay Smallman is named on the bench.
Aberavon: Jonathan Phillips; Garyn Payne, Chay Smith, Will Price, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, David Pritchard; Rowan Jenkins, Luke Davies, Chris Davies, Rhodri Hughes, Sam Williams, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (c), Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans
Replacements: James Garland, Frankie Jones, Aled Rees, Josh Clark, Jordan Walters, Lee Purnell, Geraint James, Shay Smallman
Cardiff are able to welcome back Teddy Williams to start at second row having been away at a Wales U20 training camp in the run up to the Bridgend game last week, while Dan Fish returns from Cardiff Blues duty at full-back and Sam Beard replaces Leon Andrews in the centre.
With a shortage of wingers in the squad at the moment Jason Harries drops down from Cardiff Blues to play out wide, while Lloyd Pike will cover back row on the bench after an injury to Zach O’Driscoll last week.
Cardiff RFC: Dan Fish, Jason Harries, Max Llewellyn, Sam Beard, Joe Gatt, Gareth Thompson, Tom Habberfield; Thomas Davies, Evan Yardley, Ollie Drake, Teddy Williams, Callum Bradbury, James Thomas, Alex Everett, Morgan Allen (c)
Replacements: Hugo Souto, Brynley Toms, Peter Lloyd, Sam Pailor, Lloyd Pike, Ethan Lloyd, Joe Scrivens, Edd Howley
It’s probably the toughest game for the Blue and Blacks since Steve Law’s men hosted Pontypridd on the opening day of the season, or at least since we travelled to RGC, and after three weeks of playing sides towards the bottom of the league a step up is required.
Fortunately Cardiff are settling into a consistent team selection just at the right time as partnerships form all over the pitch. The front and back rows have now played together regularly, as have the 9/10/12 combination.
A damp night at the Arms Park is expected but if the Blue and Blacks can once again exert their power then there is enough quality in the back line to overcome the conditions and keep the winning run going.