Cardiff RFC return to Indigo Group Premiership action this evening with a top-of-the-table clash against Carmarthen Quins at Carmarthen Park, 19:05 kick-off.
The Blue and Blacks had a week off last week due to the Swansea squad suffering with an outbreak of mumps, giving Steve Law’s men the chance to recover after a tough period of fixtures across December, during which we lost our unbeaten record.
The tough games keep coming though with Carmarthen currently in second place with a game-in-hand over Cardiff, but still 15 points back such was our early season dominance.
Quins have not yet lost at home this season though, and also had a week off last week as their games against Llanelli was re-arranged, meaning they will be fit and firing to keep up the form that saw them beat Pontypridd 27-20 last time out at Carmarthen Park.
They will also be keen to avenge defeat at the hands of Cardiff earlier in the season, when tries from James Thomas, Ben Thomas and Alex Everett secured a 34-20 bonus point win at the Arms Park.
In order to do so head coach Emyr Phillips has made seven changes to the team that beat Pontypridd last time out, bringing in an all-new front row of Ollie Evans, Shaun Evans and Scarlets tighthead Javan Sebastian.
Jac Wilson and Josh Batcup form a new 10 and 12 combination, while Dale Ford and Leon Randell are new in the back three.
There are some familiar faces throughout the squad with former Cardiff RFC winger Morgan Griffiths starting and former prop Ben Leung on the bench, Kirby Myhill’s brother Torin is also on the bench.
Carmarthen RFC: Leon Randell, Dale Ford, Nick Reynolds, Josh Batcup, Morgan Griffiths, Jac Wilson, Jon Evans; Ollie Evans, Shaun Evans, Javan Sebastian, Josh Helps, Haydn Pugh (c), Ed Siggery, Lewys Millin, Lawrence Reynolds
Replacements: Ben Leung, Torin Myhill, Connor Allen, Lee Taylor, Shaun Jones, Dec Smith, Jake Newman, Geraint Llewellyn
Steve Law has also made a number of changes to his team that beat Llanelli last time out, although a number are enforced with Macauley Cook, Lewis Jones and Dan Fish called up to the Cardiff Blues squad, while Ioan Davies is ruled out with injury.
He is able to call on Keiron Assiratti at tighthead from Cardiff Blues though, with Evan Yardley recalled at hooker next to him. Tom Habberfield also returns at scrum-half with Leon Andrews back in the midfield.
There is good injury news as Barney Nightingale is cleared to start at centre after the scary head injury picked up against Ebbw Vale in November, while Teri Gee overcomes a groin problem to start on the wing. Joe Scrivens makes a return to the starting XV at full-back.
On the bench there are Cardiff Blues players Will Davies-King and Ethan Lloyd, Iestyn Harris drops down to cover hooker, Edd Howley drops down to cover the outside backs where he is joined by the returning Joe Gatt.
Cardiff RFC: Joe Scrivens, James Beal, Leon Andrews, Barney Nightingale, Teri Gee, Gareth Thompson, Tom Habberfield; Thomas Davies, Evan Yardley, Keiron Assiratti, James Thomas, Sam Pailor, Alex Everett, Zach O’Driscoll, Morgan Allen (c)
Replacements: Iestyn Harris, Brynley Toms, Will Davies-King, Kieran Martin, Lloyd Pike, Ethan Lloyd, Edd Howley, Joe Gatt
With the weather being predictably wet and windy in Carmarthenshire this week, the surface may well play into the hands of whichever pack can gain the upper hand on Friday night.
Cardiff will be hoping that their more experienced bench can then be the difference later in the game, with Howley and Gatt being the top try scorers last season and possessing plenty of attacking firepower.
If this one results in a win then the Blue and Blacks may start dreaming about having one hand on the trophy, but there’s no chance of Steve Law letting them get away with no working hard first.