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Botham returns as Cardiff host defending champions Leinster

First Team News | 28th January 2022

James Botham returns to the Cardiff side as the Blue and Blacks prepare to welcome defending URC champions, Leinster, to the capital on Saturday (KO 7.35pm).

The Wales star missed the Heineken Champions Cup clash against Harlequins after a head injury suffered against Edinburgh but recovers to take his place in the number eight jersey for the Arms Park encounter.

Due to international call-ups, Dai Young has made seven changes to the starting XV that faced the English champions, with Josh Adams, Rhys Priestland, Willis Halaholo, Tomos Williams, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins and James Ratti unavailable.

In the absence of Halaholo, Ben Thomas will partner Rey Lee-Lo in midfield, while Aled Summerhill is a direct replacement for British and Irish Lion, Adams, on the wing.

Lloyd Williams comes into the number nine jersey to link up with Jarrod Evans, who retains his place in the backline alongside Owen Lane and Hallam Amos.

Corey Domachowski is the sole change in the front row, while Rory Thornton is drafted in to form a second row partnership with captain Josh Turnbull.

The final change sees Will Boyde named on the openside, joining Shane Lewis-Hughes and Botham in the back row.

Cardiff Arms Park will welcome supporters back onto the terraces, with a number of players set to play in front of a crowd for the first time since October’s derby win over Dragons.

Director of rugby Young said: “It will be interesting to see where we are again this weekend on the back of a week without playing.

“But one thing that does focus the mind is playing against Leinster. It will be a real big challenge for us and something we’ve spoken about as a squad. 

“We’re looking at our win percentages with internationals, which is a lot better than when they’re not available.

“There’s a big onus over the next month to get the results because we’re only as strong as every performance. That’s true whether we’ve got internationals or not.

“It’s important to have the crowd back. That gives everyone the buzz and the excitement. When we have had crowds here this season they’ve been excellent and played a big part.

“Hopefully they’ll come out in their numbers and are nice and loud like they have been this season.

“We’ve got a part to play in that, doing the job on the field and giving them something to cheer about. That’s why we play rugby.”

Young is boosted by the availability of prop duo, Rhys Carré and Dillon Lewis, who have been released from the Wales squad for the weekend’s action.

Hooker Efan Daniel, who was named in the Wales under-20 squad earlier this week, is set for a debut, with scrum half Jamie Hill also in-line for his first appearance of the campaign.

The matchday 23 includes a total of 15 players developed through the club’s academy.

Cardiff Rugby: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Kirby Myhill, Dmitri Arhip, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Will Boyde, James Botham

Replacements: Efan Daniel, Rhys Carré, Dillon Lewis, Teddy Williams, Sam Moore, Jamie Hill, Max Llewellyn, Garyn Smith