Preview: Cardiff RFC v Llanelli

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There’s an immediate chance for Cardiff RFC to return to winning ways in the Indigo Group Premiership this weekend as Llanelli visit the Arms Park on Saturday night, 5.15pm kick-off.

The Blue and Blacks suffered a first defeat of the season last week, falling 26-25 to Pontypridd at Sardis Road, bringing to an end a winning run of 13 games across the league and Specsavers Cup.

Despite still being 14 points ahead at the top of the league, Steve Law’s men will still be keen to return to winning ways against a Llanelli side that we have a good recent record against.

Cardiff have won the last four games over the Scarlets, stretching back to March 2017. The most recent win came back in September when tries from Morgan Allen, Barney Nightingale, Sam Beard and a brace from Tom Habberfield secured a 10-33 victory after a dominant second half.

That defeat was part of four straight wins to start the season for Llanelli, but they bounced back to win five-in-a-row and ease them away from the relegation battle.

Over the last two games they have lost at Pontypridd and at home to Swansea though, laving them eighth in the league and losing touch with the top six that are developing at this mid-way point of the season.

On the back of the that there are eight changes to the Llanelli side, starting with a whole new front row where Lewis Davies joins Scarlets players Taylor Davies and Alex Jeffries, while Danny Drake is in at lock and Nathan Hart comes in to captain the side at blindside flanker with Jacob Lewis switching to the openside.

Barney Nightingale Llanelli RFC

There is a familiar face in at scrum-half where former Cardiff Blues Academy player Dane Blacker starts, while Iwan Evans and Ioan Nicholas form a new centre partnership. Tom Rogers starts at full-back with Ryan Davies switching from centre to one wing and Kalum Evans switching from full-back to the other wing.

Maintaining his place at number eight is another familiar face in Joe Miles who was also a member of the Cardiff Blues Academy for a time.

Llanelli RFC: Tom Rogers, Kalum Evans, Ioan Nicholas, Iwan Evans, Ryan Davies, Ioan Hughes, Dane Blacker; Lewis Davies, Taylor Davies, Alex Jeffries, Chris Long, Danny Drake, Nathan Hart (c), Jacob Lewis, Joe Miles

Replacements: Rhys Cherry, Dylan Lawley, Ryan Thomas, Ed Couzens, Elis Hopkins, Ifan Beynon Thomas, Tadhg McGuckin, Ashley Sutton

Steve Law has also chosen to make a number of changes to his starting XV as six new faces start from the side which ran out at Pontypridd last week.

Cardiff Blues Academy boys Iestyn Harris and Will Davies-King start at hooker and tighthead, respectively, with James Thomas stepping up to second row as Zach O’Driscoll starts on the openside. Alex Everett moves over to the blindside.

Alex Everett Merthyr RFC

Lewis Jones switches with Tom Habberfield at scrum-half while Jason Harries slots in at outside centre where he played a lot of rugby early in his career. Another Cardiff Blues Academy talent gets a start at full-back with Ioan Davies wearing 15 as Edd Howley moves out to the wing.

Habberfield, Evan Yardley and Matther Petit drop down to the bench where Kieran Martin and Lloyd Pike are recalled. Dan Fish also recovers after picking up a knock to take a seat among the replacements.

Cardiff RFC: Ioan Davies, Edd Howley, Jason Harries, Max Llewellyn, James Beal, Gareth Thompson, Lewis Jones; Thomas Davies, Iestyn Harris, Will Davies-King, Sam Pailor, James Thomas, Alex Everett, Zach O’Driscoll, Morgan Allen (c)

Replacements: Evan Yardley, Brynley Toms, Matthew Petit, Kieran Martin, Lloyd Pike, Tom Habberfield, Dan Fish, Joe Scrivens

With both teams desperate for a win to ignite the second half of their respective campaigns this will be an evenly contested battle in front of the S4C cameras.

For Cardiff the aim is to send a message to the rest of the league that, although we have lost a game, we are still very much the team to beat and the trophy is still firmly within our grasp.

A psychological test awaits, as much as a tactical one.

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