Leinster 22 - 21 Cardiff Blues
Sat 25 March 15:00 RDS Arena Att: 10,106 Ref: George Clancy Guinness Pro12

Preview: Leinster Rugby v Cardiff Blues

Thu 23 Mar 2017 21:45 Preview: Leinster Rugby v Cardiff Blues
Following two weeks out of competitive action, the Blues will look to bounce back from the 23-13 loss to Munster earlier in the month and build up momentum ahead of a season defining month in both the Guinness PRO12 and European Challenge Cup.

Head coach Danny Wilson has made five changes to the line-up that suffered the loss to Munster, with USA international Blaine Scully returning from a minor injury to captain the side, replacing Tom James on the wing.

Kristian Dacey and Alex Cuthbert both return to the starting line-up following international commitments, while Rey Lee-Lo and Tomos Williams both come into the backline.

Gethin Jenkins and namesake, Ellis, both return from lengthy injury lay-outs, and are named on the bench. 

What They Said

In the build-up to Saturday’s clash, Wilson said his side are fully aware of the challenges facing them at the Irish Capital, but believes it is an opportunity to build momentum for the upcoming block of fixtures against top quality opposition.

"It's about building performances now, and we need a performance away at Leinster to then go into a quarter final against Gloucester the very next week, which is a key target game for us," said Wilson.

"We'll be aiming for an away win there and qualify for a semi-final which would be a fantastic achievment for us if we could do that.

"Leinster are top of the league and a quality side playing some great rugby, especially at home. You've seen some of the sides who have gone to their place and taken some heavy beatings recently.

"There's no bigger challenge, but it's certainly one we're motivated for and looking forward to.

"We've got some big games ahead of us and they're games we're going to take extremely seriously, because if we don't make the top six this year, we can be in a play-off spot, which gives us an opportunity to make the Champions Cup next year.

"The boys have trained well over the past couple of weeks without a game, and it's allowed us to get a few boys back from injury. But that's the same for Leinster, and I know they'll have some big hitters back from injury and probably some big hitters back from the Ireland.

"I think we showed at the start of the season, with a very fit and healthy squad, we won seven out of 10 games, with some great wins. We showed what we are capable of.”

Cardiff Blues have been out of competitive action for the past two weeks, and scrum-half Lloyd Williams is pleased with the work done on the training ground over the past fortnight in preparation for Saturday’s game.

Williams said: “We haven't tried improving everything over the past two weeks because I think when you try to do that you don’t really get anything done.

“We’ve focused on two areas of our game that we're going to get better at. If that goes well on the weekend we’ll have had a lot out of these two weeks, including a fitness block, and hopefully they’ll make a really big difference going into the end of the season.

“We feel like we're on the right track. Our performances have been better, even though the results against Connacht and Munster didn’t go our way, we felt we performed much better as a team and we're going in the right direction.”

“It’s always a tough match in Leinster and I think it’s the type of place where you can play really good rugby but come away on the wrong side of the scoreboard. 

“They’re going to be a very tough team and whatever time of the year you play them it’s going to be a tough ask. We’ve got our preparation right this week and have put ourselves in the best possible position to get a victory.

“We’ve taken every game as they come, and I know that's a bit of a cliché, but that’s what we are doing. 

“We’re trying to get a good performance in Dublin, and be on the right side of the scoresheet, and then the following week is a massive week for the club. 

“That's going to be huge, so I’m sure we’ll put Leinster to bed on Monday morning and then really set our sights on Gloucester as that is going to define our season and give us a great chance of reaching a semi-final, and potentially a final, by the end of the season.”

Meanwhile, Gareth Anscombe is anticipating a massive occasion in the Irish capital, and insists his side is motivated for the challenge ahead.

"We had Leinster at home early on in the season and, looking back, it was a game that we lost more than anything so we know we can compete with them," said Anscombe.

"It starts in Dublin and it's a few big weeks for the club. You can notice that in training - the boys are training well and there is a different mentality and rise in intensity.

"The squad are excited for the challenge and hopefully the boys can really pick ourselves up for a massive occasion in Dublin.

"To face Leinster, at their place, is always a big game and they're coming into this match on a bit of form and have been dominant in recent matches.

"We're in for a massive challenge, but we want to go there with a positive mindset and keep improving before another big game against Gloucester next weekend.

"These big games is where you want to be playing against the best teams, you want to face tough challenges and test yourself against some big name players."

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Steven Shingler, Blaine Scully (C); Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Kristian Dacey, Anton Peikrishvili, George Earle, Jarrad Hoeata, Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Sion Bennett, Ellis Jenkins, Lloyd Williams, Willis Halaholo, Tom James

Leinster: Joey Carbery; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Isa Nacewa (C); Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Hayden Triggs, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock

Replacements: James Tracy, Peter Dooley, Mike Ross, Mick Kearney, Max Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Tom Daly, Fergus McFadden