Justin Burnell and Gareth Baber have selected a side with a blend of youth and experience as they gear up for a busy month in the RaboDirect Pro12. The Blues twenty three man squad contains Ben Blair, Gavin Evans, Tom James, Ceri Sweeney and Richie Rees in the backs, all of whom have played for their country.
In the forwards Maama Molitika, Scott Andrews, T Rhys Thomas and John Yapp all have international experience, while New Zealand internationals Casey Laulala and Xavier Rush are on the bench.
Speaking ahead of the match Burnell said:
“We had to rest some of the senior players last weekend as they have played a massive part of our season so far, and helped us reach the Heineken Cup quarter finals.”
“There’s a system for us to integrate younger players with the more experienced players and that’s why we’ve picked this side.”
“We are preparing for some big PRO12 matches in February and we’re trying to identify which players are closing the gap and moving forward.”
“I think this competition is also important for our young Welsh talent.”
“Perhaps it wasn’t set up to be a development competition and maybe there is a different view between the Welsh and English teams, as obviously it’s a route into the Heineken Cup for the English clubs.”
“Obviously it was a disappointing result for us last week against Gloucester, however, we have to see the bigger picture, in that we are in the process of trying to develop a squad.”
“We have one band of players that play international rugby and Heineken Cup rugby and another band of players that play Heineken Cup rugby and RaboDirect rugby.”
“We currently don’t have a group of players that play RaboDirect Pro12 and LV= Cup rugby.”
“We are in the process of identifying that next level, but within that selection and identification process there is going to be a tough time and difficult period before we come out the other end.”
“Naturally, we don’t go into games to lose but we have to develop players.”
“When you look at the likes of Macauley Cook, Luke Hamilton, Corey Hill and Lewis Jones, we may not see the benefit of playing them at LV level for another 18 months or two years.”
“However, it’s crucial for them to have this experience so we can view their progress.”
“The Scarlets went through a similar process a season or two ago when they had financial issues and had to produce their own players.”
“It’s the current economic climate that dictates this and we can’t just go out and buy foreign players, we have to produce our own. Those are the hard facts.”
The Round 4 LV= Cup match is free to children, when accompanied by a paying adult, courtesy of Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire, who are sponsoring the offer. There will be a host of activities pre match with the Heineken Fan Zone being converted to the Kids Zone for this special match, with gates opening at 11.30am.
“I think it’s a great initiative to have the kids coming for free to the match so hopefully we will have some great vocal support.”
“The support has been amazing in the last few matches. The crowd at Racing Metro really got behind us and that’s something that we really enjoy and the players have spoken very highly about it.”
Adults can save £5 on their match tickets if they purchase them beofre 9am on the day of the match. Adult tickets cost £10 if purchased before the deadline and £15 after.
After the final whistle the Blues would like to welcome supporters to watch the Ireland v Wales match in the Players Lounge with the Cardiff Blues squad.
If you want to join the fun, watch the Cardiff Blues take on Harlequins, then watch the Six Nations match in a family friendly atmosphere, please call the Ticket Office on 0845 345 1400 to purchase your match ticket or to order your free pass for the Players Lounge.
Cardiff Blues 15 Ben Blair 14 Richard Mustoe 13 Gavin Evans 12 Dafydd Hewitt 11 Tom James 10 Ceri Sweeney 9 Richie Rees
8 Luke Hamilton 7 Josh Navidi 6 Maama Molitika 5 Macauley Cook 4 Cory Hill 3 Scott Andrews 2 T Rhys Thomas (Capt) 1 John Yapp
16 Ryan Tyrell 17 Nathan Trevett 18 Sam Hobbs 19 Paul Tito 20 Xavier Rush 21 Lewis Jones 22 Gareth Davies 23 Casey Laulala