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Botham, Priestland and Young return for Zebre trip

First Team News | 23rd March 2023

James Botham and Rhys Priestland return to the Cardiff starting line-up for Friday’s crucial BKT United Rugby Championship clash with Zebre (KO 7.10pm GMT).

The duo have been sidelined with injuries in recent weeks, and last featured against Leinster, but they are now available for the trip to Parma as Dai Young’s men head into the final three rounds of the Championship with all to play for.

The Blue and Blacks are currently five points short of the play-off places and top the Welsh shield, with a trip to Connacht and the Judgement Day clash against Ospreys on the horizon.

Director of rugby, Young welcomes Mason Grady back into the midfield as the young centre returns from international duty, where he won his first cap during Wales’ Guinness Six Nations campaign.

Elsewhere, Teddy Williams links up with captain Josh Turnbull at second row, while Shane Lewis-Hughes makes his first start since October, joining Botham and number eight James Ratti in the back row.

The pack is completed by a front row trio of Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher and Keiron Assiratti while the club’s record appearance maker, Lloyd Williams, partners Priestland at half back.

Max Llewellyn combines with Grady in midfield with the line-up completed by a back three of Jason Harries, Owen Lane and Ben Thomas.

Young said: “We’re really looking forward to getting back out on the pitch for what is a really important game in our season. 

“We will not underestimate Zebre and are preparing for a really tough encounter but if we want to finish as the top Welsh team then this is a fixture we simply have to win. 

“Everyone is excited about the weeks ahead, whether it is the final rounds of the URC, and the prospect of the Welsh Shield and play-offs, or Europe. 

“There is no shortage of motivation and despite picking up some injuries in recent weeks we have welcomed others back and have brought Mason Grady and Rhys Carré straight back in following their Six Nations involvement. 

“It promises to be a great match and with a victory we can set ourselves up for the rest of the season and keep our hopes alive.”

Thomas Young is another who returns from injury, taking his place on the bench alongside Rhys Carré, who was also involved in Wales’ Six Nations campaign.

Following Friday’s clash, Cardiff will return to the capital to host Sale Sharks at the Arms Park in the Challenge Cup Round of 16 next Saturday. 

Friday's match will be televised live at the Cardiff Arms Park clubhouse, with welcome for all.

Cardiff: Ben Thomas; Owen Lane, Mason Grady, Max Llewellyn, Jason Harries; Rhys Priestland, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Keiron Assiratti, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Teddy Williams, Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, James Ratti

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Rhys Carré, Will Davies-King, Seb Davies, Thomas Young, Ellis Bevan, Jarrod Evans, Matthew Morgan