Preview: Cardiff Blues v Dragons

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The Boxing Day game returns this season as Cardiff Blues welcome Dragons to the Arms Park with both sides on the back of impressive pre-Christmas wins.

For Cardiff Blues there was a win at last at the Liberty Stadium as a try from Jarrod Evans along with the boot of him and Jason Tovey secured a 19-16 victory, ending a run of 14 years of losses in Swansea stretching back to December 2005.

Meanwhile Dragons made it back-to-back league wins over the Scarlets, this time at Rodney Parade after winning at Judgement Day last season. A try from Rhodri Williams and 17 points from Sam Davies, including the match winning drop goal, saw them to a 22-20 victory in tough Newport conditions.

That was a first Guinness Pro14 win for today’s opposition in three games as Dragons moved up to fifth in Conference A, their best start to a season for some years as Dean Ryan has come in and taken over as Director of Rugby.

A strong start in the European Challenge Cup too has seen them sitting top of their pool after four rounds, but a cloud still remains over the side going into this game.

Cardiff Blues have a nine game winning streak over the Boxing Day opponents and Dragons have not won an away Welsh derby since their last win over us, when an Elliot Dee try and the boot of Tom Prydie secured victory on Boxing Day 2014.

Tomos Williams Ospreys

To help change that Dean Ryan has made five changes to the side that beat Scarlets on Saturday, opting for the experience of Richard Hibbard and Aaron Jarvis up front, while the return of Ross Moriarty allows Cory Hill to move back up to the second row.

In the backs there is a recall for Tyler Morgan, while Jared Rosser returns from injury to start on the wing.  Wales internationals Elliot Dee and Leon Brown prepare to make an impact off the bench.

Dragons: Will Talbot-Davies, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (c); Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Josh Reynolds, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Harrison Keddie, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Adam Warren

There are also five changes for Cardiff Blues as John Mulvihill is forced into one by injury, with Kirby Myhill picking up an ankle knock and Liam Belcher starting, while an injury returnee sees Josh Navidi start at number eight with Josh Turnbull moving up to second row and Filo Paulo dropping out.

Tactical switches see Keiron Assiratti start at tighthead with Scott Andrews dropping to the bench, Olly Robinson is preferred to Will Boyde at openside and Hallam Amos gets the nod against his former team at full-back swapping with Matthew Morgan.

Hallam Amos Leicester Tigers

On the bench there is a return from injury for Seb Davies, while Ethan Lewis will cover hooker.

Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Brad Thyer, Liam Belcher, Keiron Assiratti, James Ratti, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Josh Navidi (c)

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Will Boyde, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Matthew Morgan

With the weather looking wet once again the winner will likely be the most accurate side on a day where the plastic pitch will make handling difficult. A skiddy ball and quick bounces will see kicking from hand become key.

Both sides are keen on moving the ball quickly and it may well be that the bench has a huge role to play in the last quarter with tired legs no doubt bound to hit each team.

Underlying all of that of course is the grit and determination that is required to win a Welsh derby. If Cardiff Blues play at the level seen at the Liberty Stadium last week then it’s a great base to build from. Come on Cardiff!

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