Crocker returns from Oz as Cardiff RFC prepare for top v bottom clash

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Cardiff RFC return to action this weekend in the Indigo Group Premiership after five weeks off due to breaks for the Six Nations and the postponement of the game away at Ebbw Vale.

Bridgend Ravens are the visitors to the Arms Park on Saturday, 2.30pm kick-off, in what will be a top v bottom clash in the capital, with the Blue and Blacks having beaten Llanelli in the WRU Specsavers Cup last time out.

Only seven of the starting XV remain from that day as Steve Law contends with a lengthy injury and unavailability list. James Thomas, Lloyd Pike, Alex Everett, Peter Lloyd, Zach O’Driscoll and Mathew Powell remain in the treatment room, while club captain Morgan Allen is banned.

Cardiff Blues players Teddy Williams, James Botham, Lewis Jones, Max Llewellyn and Dan Fish remain are also unavailable either due to injury or being selected to play in Edinburgh.

It is still a strong team Cardiff RFC can call on though, aided by the return of Luke Crocker to openside flanker. The 30-year-old played 57 times between 2016 and 2018 before heading for Australia where he played for the Manly Marlins, but is now back in South Wales to help ease the back row crisis.

He is joined in the back row by Nathan Hudd, who will make a long awaited first start for the Blue and Blacks having been injured playing for Cardiff Blues A at the start of the season. He came off the bench against Llanelli but will wear number eight this weekend.

Up front there is a welcome return to fitness for Ollie Drake at tighthead, who hasn’t played since Llandovery away the weekend before Christmas, while Brynley Toms and Evan Yardley are restored to the starting XV alongside him. Macauley Cook is available from the Cardiff Blues squad and packs down at lock.

There isn’t a huge amount of change in the backs as Tom Habberfield and Gareth Thompson continue at half-back, with the former taking on the captaincy, while Jack Brooks joins Barney Nightingale to form the centre partnership.

Then in the back three Ioan Davies also drops down from the Cardiff Blues squad, with Edd Howley taking a place on the bench. James Beal will make his 50th Blue and Blacks appearance on the wing.

There is a new face on the bench as Cardiff Blues Academy and Wales U20 back rower Gwilym Bradley is set for his Cardiff RFC debut, with Ethan Lewis, Will Davies-King and Ethan Lloyd all joining him as a replacement from the professional squad.

Cardiff RFC: Ioan Davies, James Beal, Jack Brooks, Barney Nightingale, Teri Gee, Gareth Thompson, Tom Habberfield (c); Brynley Toms, Evan Yardley, Ollie Drake, Macauley Cook, Callum Bradbury, Sam Pailor, Luke Crocker, Nathan Hudd

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Thomas Davies, Will Davies-King, Kieran Martin, Gwilym Bradley, Ethan Lloyd, Joe Scrivens, Edd Howley

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