The festive Welsh derbies come to an end on Friday evening as Cardiff Blues welcome Scarlets to the Arms Park for a 7.35pm kick-off.
John Mulvihill’s men are looking to make it a clean sweep over the period after beating Ospreys before Christmas and Dragons on Boxing Day, with an outside chance of ending this block of fixtures in the play-off positions of the Guinness Pro14’s Conference B still alive.
To do that we’ll have to extend the winning run in the league to five games and the winning run over Scarlets to three after doing the double over them in emphatic fashion last season.
A 5-34 win away from home in December was followed by a stunning 41-17 victory at the Arms Park the following March, with the half-time score actually showing 38-0 after Cardiff Blues blew our Western rivals away with the performance of the season.
Scarlets will be looking to gain revenge for that and kick on this season after coming through the early part of the season in decent shape considering their international call-ups and the distraction of their new head coach being courted by New Zealand.
Six wins from nine Pro14 games has left them third in Conference B, while three wins from four Challenge Cup games has them second in Pool Two, but they may be slightly concerned by away form that has only produced two away wins across both competitions.
So far their festive period has produced a surprise away loss at Dragons and the home thrashing of Ospreys last week, so to finish on a high the soon-to-be departing Brad Mooar has made three changes to freshen up his pack ahead of the trip to the Arms Park.
There’s a new face up front as Werner Kruger replaces Samson Lee, while Tevita Ratuva is preferred to Sam Lousi at second row, and Uzair Cassiem gets the nod at number eight ahead of Blade Thomson.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny, Ryan Conbeer, Steff Hughes, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans, Angus O’Brien, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (c), Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, Tevita Ratuva, Aaron Shingler, Josh MacLeod, Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Phil Price, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Sam Lousi, Blade Thomson, Kieran Hardy, Ryan Lamb, Paul Asquith
John Mulvihill makes five changes to his pack, meanwhile, in a bid to beef it back up after opting for a more mobile selection against the Dragons.
Rhys Gill and Scott Andrews get the nod at prop as a more experienced duo, while the weight of Filo Paulo comes in at second row, with Keiron Assiratti and James Ratti dropping to the bench and Brad Thyer missing out entirely.
Nick Williams is a welcome addition after returning from injury while Will Boyde will start at openside against his former club. Josh Navidi moves to blindside to facilitate this with Olly Robinson and Shane Lewis-Hughes receiving a well earned rest.
Corey Domachowski is another who returns to fitness and will take a place on the bench.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi (c), Will Boyde, Nick Williams
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, James Ratti, Olly Robinson, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Matthew Morgan
With the weather looking dry and the plastic pitch sure to provide a fast track, Friday night’s game is set to be a cracking encounter between two teams who aren’t afraid to move the ball around the park a bit.
Scarlets will no doubt feel they can gain an edge up front and in the set piece, but if Cardiff Blues can get at all equal to them in those areas then there’s a great chance to get the upper hand through our back row and into our back line.
A sold out Arms Park awaits a huge game as John Mulvihill’s men either get right in amongst the battle for the top three in the Conference or watch it play out ahead of us. Be the 16th man, come on Cardiff!