Just under six months since we last saw a Cardiff Blues team take the field, John Mulvihill’s men are back in action this weekend with a trip to the Scarlets.
Of course a lot has happened in the time between the last Guinness Pro14 game away at Edinburgh and now, and it would be churlish not to mention the incredible work done by key workers, particularly the NHS, as well as take a moment to remember those who we have sadly lost.
There is also hope the world has changed for the better in one way during the last few months, with worldwide anti-racism demonstrations hopefully taking us towards a fairer and more equal society.
Change also comes in the form of how rugby will return this weekend, with safety being the key for all personnel at grounds, while games will be played behind closed doors leaving supporters sitting at home watching via their televisions or listening on the radio.
One thing that will hopefully be the same is the passion and competitiveness of Welsh derbies though, particularly between Cardiff Blues and Scarlets with the history between the two clubs going way back to 1881.
The two sides met at the end of the 1880/81 season in the final of the South Wales Challenge Cup, in what would be the last game before this competition was scrapped for constant crowd trouble. On that occasion it was Cardiff who snatched victory over Llanelli with a try in extra time.
In recent years it has been the side from West Wales who have largely had the upper hand, including in the most recent meeting between the sides back in January when they snuck a 14-16 win at the Arms Park.
However, Cardiff Blues will have the most recent visit to Parc y Scarlets fresh in our minds, when tries from Lloyd Williams, Gareth Anscombe and a brace from Rey Lee-Lo helped us to a superb 5-34 win.
For the return to rugby the Scarlets are missing a number of key players, with Rob Evans, Aaron Shingler, Rhys Patchell, Jon Davies and Liam Williams all injured, while an element of squad rotation sees the likes of Ken Owens, Jake Ball, Tevita Ratuva and Sione Kalamafoni all either left out or on the bench.
It’s still a strong team selected by new head coach Glenn Delaney though, with Wales starts Wyn Jones, Gareth Davies and Leigh Halfpenny in the starting XV, Blade Thomson returns to fitness on the blindside flank and Johnny Williams makes his debut at inside centre.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Steffan Hughes, Johnny Williams, Steff Evans, Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Sam Lousi, Lewis Rawlins, Blade Thomson, Josh MacLeod, Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Ken Owens, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Jake Ball, James Davies, Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien, Paul Asquith
On the Cardiff Blues side John Mulvihill has also opted to rotate his squad over the next two weeks, leaving the likes of Dmitri Arhip, Josh Navidi, Sam Moore and Owen Lane out, while Ellis Jenkins, Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo are either injured or unavailable for selection.
The big news is the second debuts of Rhys Carre and Cory Hill as they return to Cardiff Blues after spells at Saracens and Dragons, respectively, beefing up the forward pack.
There are returns to fitness for Harri Millard, Josh Adams and Hallam Amos, while Matthew Morgan takes a spot on the bench.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos, Josh Adams, Harri Millard, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Carre, Kris Dacey, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull (c), Olly Robinson, Will Boyde
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Gill, Keiron Assiratti, Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Lloyd Williams, Garyn Smith, Matthew Morgan
In terms of analysing the game it’s a difficult win with no form to speak of, and every player having to deal with shaking off the rust of six months without a game and relatively little training ahead of rugby’s return.
It may well come down to which side makes the least mistakes as they get up and running again, with handling errors and the set piece set to be the areas of the game to watch.
There is the breakdown as well, of course, with it’s new refereeing priorities adding a new dimension to that area of the game. Cardiff Blues will certainly be hoping to come out on top in that regard which should give us plenty of field position and possession.
All-in-all it will just be good to have some live rugby to watch again, even if it is from home, so get supporting from the sofa and come on Cardiff!