After a long five weeks out of action, Cardiff RFC take on Bridgend Ravens in the Indigo Group Premiership at the Arms Park on Saturday, 2.30pm kick-off.
The Blue and Blacks have not played since late January when Llanelli were beaten in the WRU Specsavers Cup, with the most recent league game coming the week before that as Carmarthen Quins won out in a poor performance in West Wales.
Storm Dennis cost Steve Law’s men the chance to return to winning ways in the Premiership away at Ebbw Vale two weeks ago, but they now get back on the field against a Bridgend side who have also been out of action for over a month after their game against Llanelli fell victim to the weather.
Recent games between the two sides have gone the way of Cardiff, with four wins in a row for the Blue and Blacks, most recently earlier in the season when a brace from Sam Beard, tries for Evan Yardley and Gareth Thompson, and the boot of Thompson, earned a 12-34 win at the Brewery Field.
That was a fourth win in a row for the Blue and Blacks over the Ravens, but the score line was a misleading one with the first half in particular a tight affair, before we pulled away a bit after half-time.
In a sense that has been the story of the season for Bridgend, who currently sit bottom of the league but have the second most losing bonus point. Often it has been a case of so close, yet so far.
Recent last-minute losses against Pontypridd and Newport have been heart-breakers, while there have also been single digit defeats in the return game against Ponty, Llanelli and Ebbw Vale, but the form book still shows five losses in a row.
Their bid to break that run has been hit by Wales U20 call-ups for Bradley Roderick and Morgan Strong from the Ospreys Academy, as well as Caine Woolerton to the Wales Sevens setup, but they are still able to benefit from Dewi Cross and Gheorge Gajion from their regional side.
There is also a familiar face at centre where Adam Jones lines up against his former club. He made 28 appearances for Cardiff between 2017 and 2019 before landing at Bridgend via Newport.
Bridgend Ravens: Jamie Murphy, Andrew Evans, Nathan Edwards (c), Adam Jones, Dewi Cross, Jacob Chilcott, Chris Williams; Owen Jordan, Gareth Harvey, Gheorghe Gajion, Ben Jones, James Little, Dafi Davies, Adam O’Driscoll, Rob Dudley Jones
Replacements: Garin Lloyd, Rhys Forse, Cai Lewis, Jack Pope, Ben Mayers Davies, Connor Tantum, Tyler Williams, Stuart Floyd Ellis
For Cardiff RFC the missing players are largely down to injury or suspension, with Peter Lloyd, Teddy Williams, James Botham, Alex Everett, Morgan Allen, Zach O’Driscoll and Mathew Powell all unavailable for selection.
With the likes of Lewis Jones, Dan Fish, Max Llewellyn and Ioan Davies all involved with the Cardiff Blues squad, it leaves Steve Law having to make a reshuffle with the latter of those players initially named in the Blue and Blacks starting XV for this weekend.
The likelihood is that Edd Howley will slot in at full-back with a spot left vacant on the bench, with a good quality replacement still keeping the squad looking strong despite the unavailability.
Macauley Cook is included in the starting XV with Ethan Lewis, Will Davies-King and possible debutant Gwilym Bradley all included from the Cardiff Blues squad, Ollie Drake returns from injury at tighthead and Luke Crocker is back in the team after returning from a year away in Australia.
Elsewhere James Beal will make his 50th appearance for the Blue and Blacks on the wing.
Cardiff RFC: Edd Howley, 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, A.N Other
With both sides having not played in over a month, who can shake off that rustiness first will play a big part in how the game will go, with the match possibly being decided early on in proceedings if one team hits the ground running.
What makes the outcome all the more complicated is the forecast weather at the Arms Park, with the wind set to play a part in proceedings and rain being around the plastic pitch making handling a problem.
The set piece will be key and Ospreys’ Gajion up against Cardiff’s Toms is set to be a significant battle in the scrum.