Cardiff have managed to name a 23-man matchday squad for the first round of pool games in the Heineken Champions Cup as reigning French and European champions Toulouse arrive at the Arms Park on Saturday, 1pm kick-off.
An incredible 42 players are unavailable for the game as 32 continue to quarantine after being caught up in the UK Government’s decision to place South Africa on the red travel list while the Blue and Blacks were in the country preparing to face Lions and Stormers, with a further nine players ruled out through injury and Rey Lee-Lo suspended after receiving a red card against the Dragons last time out.
As a result the temporary coaching staff of Gruff Rees, Richie Rees and T Rhys Thomas have had to form a mix-and-match squad that will take the field against the French side, comprising everything from Wales captains to semi-professional rugby players that count recruitment consultant and primary school teacher as their day jobs.
The starting XV does continue six full Welsh internationals as Seb Davies packs down in the second row, Ellis Jenkins leads the side from flanker, James Botham is back from injury at number eight, Tomos Williams is at scrum-half, and Willis Halaholo and Josh Adams form the centre partnership.
They are joined by fellow first team squad members Iestyn Harris and Will Davies-King at hooker and tighthead prop, respectively, while Alun Lawrence fills in at second row, Olly Robinson makes a first appearance of the season at flanker with Jason Tovey doing the same at fly-half. There is also a nod for Dan Fish on the wing, playing his second game since retiring from professional rugby a few weeks ago.
Then there are three debutants from the start as Aberavon prop Rowan Jenkins packs down at loosehead prop, having played for Cardiff A against Dragons A last season when on a short-term contract, with Theo Cabango and Jacob Beetham in the back three after impressing for the Rags in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup campaign.
The bench is fully loaded with debutants as Cardiff Met’s Joe Cowell, Evan Yardley of the Rags and Geraint James of Aberavon form the replacements front row, academy lock Rhys Anstey and stand-in Rags captain Alex Everett are the back five forward options, and the academy trio of scrum-half Ethan Lloyd, and centres Ioan Evans and Ryan Wilkins are the backs options.
Cardiff: Jacob Beetham, Theo Cabango, Josh Adams, Uilisi Halaholo, Dan Fish, Jason Tovey, Tomos Williams; Rowan Jenkins, Iestyn Harris, Will Davies-King, Alun Lawrence, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins (c), Olly Robinson, James Botham
Replacements: Evan Yardley, Joe Cowell, Geraint James, Rhys Anstey, Alex Everett, Ethan Lloyd, Ioan Evans, Ryan Wilkins