Cardiff Blues have made ten changes for their European Challenge Cup opener against Lyon at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday (KO 7.00pm)
Danny Wilson’s men reached the quarter finals of the competition last season, and welcome the current Top 14 leaders to the Welsh capital for the first round of games, before a trip to the south of France to take on Toulouse next week.
Matthew Morgan has been rewarded for his brace of tries during last week’s derby victory over Dragons and takes his place at full-back, while Blaine Scully makes his first Arms Park appearance of the season.
Garyn Smith replaces Willis Halaholo in midfield, and partners Rey Lee-Lo, while Tomos Williams gets his second start of the campaign, partnering Jarrod Evans at half back.
There is complete change in the front row with Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees and Dillon Lewis named as the starting three.
George Earle comes into the line-up to replace Damian Welch in the boiler room, with Macauley Cook and Josh Turnbull replacing Josh Navidi and Nick Williams in the back row.
Wilson is aware of the challenges facing his side against the in-form Top 14 leaders, and expects to face a strong Lyon side, whether they make squad rotations or not.
“You certainly can’t play top-of-the-table Lyon, and not far off, Toulouse, with completely different and weakened squad, but we’ve taken the opportunity, where necessary, to manage,” said Wilson.
“When you look through their squad list, they can change their squad and still have a number of what we would class as top end professionals playing and maybe not necessarily those who play week in, week out.
“We’re fully aware that they’ll be strong in terms of player base, regardless, but how they approach the competition will be the question.
“Whether they’ll be surprised to be on top of the league or not, I’m not sure, but it is certainly a great achievement to be top of the Top 14, that’s a hell of a statement with the sides that’s in there.
“Whether they remain focused on that or it’s best to maintain momentum by rotating just a few players, either way they’ll be strong and we’ll face a stern test.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve beaten Montpellier at home, beaten Pau at home and away so we’re not daunted by that fact.
“We’re fully aware it’s an in-form French team and we’ll need to be on top of our game to get the result.”
On the bench, Anton Peikrishvili and Lewis Jones are included in the matchday squad for the first time this season, while Aled Summerhill returns for the first time since the Guinness PRO14 opener against Edinburgh.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Garyn Smith, Blaine Scully; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Matthew Rees, Dillon Lewis, George Earle, Seb Davies, Macauley Cook, Olly Robinson, Josh Turnbull
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Brad Thyer, Anton Peikrishvili, James Down, Josh Navidi, Lewis Jones, Steven Shingler, Aled Summerhill