It’s a top-of-the-table clash at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Saturday afternoon as third-place Aberavon host Indigo Group Premiership leaders Cardiff RFC, kick-off 2pm.
A win for the Blue and Blacks here could send us as much 16 points clear of the Wizards, with only Carmarthen then looking capable of stopping a march to the title, but any defeat will blow the race to the top wide open with the Quins taking on bottom side Bridgend this weekend.
It was the Ravens who Steve Law’s men overcame last Saturday as they were comfortable dispatched 41-12 at the Arms Park courtesy of tries from Teri Gee, James Beal, Tom Habberfield, Ethan Lewis and Gwilym Bradley, getting Cardiff back into winning ways after five weeks off.
We now face an Aberavon team who we have already beaten this season, albeit narrowly. A try from Max Llewellyn and the boots of Gareth Thompson and Joe Scrivens earning a 13-12 victory in the capital against the then second place side in the league.
The Wizards would go on to lose their next two games, taking away all of their early season momentum, but three wins in their last four games have returned them to a point off second place. They come into the game off the back of a strong 18-48 win over Llanelli last weekend.
Head coach Jason Hyatt makes two changes to the starting XV on the back of that, with a change at loosehead where Rowan Jenkins gets the nod at Jordan Walters drops to the bench, while Ospreys’ Reuben Morgan-Williams is not available at scrum-half so former Cardiff RFC player Rhodri Cole wears the number nine jersey.
Andrew Waite steps onto the bench to cover Cole in the only other change to a matchday 23 that contains a few Cardiff Blues links. Academy hooker Cameron Lewis is in the starting line-up alongside Cardiff Blues U16 North head coach Sam Williams who starts at lock.
Marc Breeze, former Cardiff Blues hooker who played 27 times for the Blue and Blacks during his spell at the Arms Park and was part of the coaching staff after retiring as a player, is also now involved with Aberavon as forwards coach.
Aberavon: Jonathan Phillips, Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Rheon James, Stef Andrews, Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole; Rowan Jenkins, Cameron Lewis, Geraint James, Rhodri Hughes, Sam Williams, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (c), Ashton Evans, Lloyd Evans
Replacements: James Garland, Will Price, Lee Purnell, Luke Davies, Jordan Walters, Andrew Waite, Ben Thomas, Chris Davies
There are six changes to the Cardiff RFC team that beat Bridgend last week, with five of them coming up front as Steve Law opts for an entirely new front row for the trip to Port Talbot.
Thomas Davies, Iestyn Harris and Will Davies-King will pack down in the scrum, with Brynley Toms and Ollie Drake dropping to the bench as Evan Yardley misses out entirely, while Filo Paulo will make his Blue and Blacks debut as he eases a second row crisis.
Morgan Allen returns from a ban to captain the side at number eight, while the solitary change in the backs sees Max Llewellyn return to the Cardiff RFC squad in place of Jack Brooks.
On the bench there is also a return for Ioan Davies, who was named in the team to play Bridgend last week but was withdrawn to play for Cardiff Blues, while Gareth Allen covers the back row on permit from Bedwas.
Cardiff RFC: Edd Howley, James Beal, Max Llewellyn, Barney Nightingale, Teri Gee, Gareth Thompson, Tom Habberfield; Thomas Davies, Iestyn Harris, Will Davies-King, Filo Paulo, Callum Bradbury, Nathan Hudd, Luke Crocker, Morgan Allen (c)
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Brynley Toms, Ollie Drake, Kieran Martin, Gareth Allen, Ethan Lloyd, Joe Scrivens, Ioan Davies
The Talbot Athletic Ground has been a happy hunting ground for Cardiff RFC in recent years, with four wins on the last five visits in the league, however this is the toughest test in that time.
Aberavon have one of the best back lines in the league, with specifically Andrews and Banfield on the wings having the speed and experience to rip teams apart, while Thomas at fly-half has all the ability you would expect of a player who hundreds of appearances for Dragons, Scarlets, London Welsh and Gloucester.
Cardiff will need to be at their defensive best to contain them, while with the selections of Paulo and Allen, the Blue and Blacks will be hoping that some forecast damp conditions allows them to turn the screw up front.