George Earle will captain Cardiff Blues for the first time as Wales' Capital Region kick-off their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign against Newcastle Falcons on Saturday (17.00).
Richard Hodges, who is leading the coaching staff during the competition, has named a team with an exciting mix of youth and experience.
Sixteen of the match-day squad have come through the Blues’ regional pathway, with the same number of players 25-years-old or younger.
Earle forms part of an experienced pack, with the likes of Anton Peikrishvili, James Down and former Cardiff Blues favourite Ben White making an appearance, having joined Cardiff RFC in the summer.
The back-line has a more youthful feel with Tom James the only player older than 25. Dane Blacker and Ben Jones form a lively half-back partnership while Jack Roberts returns from injury.
Hodges expects a formidable challenge from a Newcastle Falcons side who have enjoyed a resurgence in domestic competition this season however he insists it is a golden opportunity for Cardiff Blues’ young talent to impress.
He said: “We have a good mixture of youth and experience, quite a few boys who have played some Premiership and B&I Cup rugby and have been waiting for an opportunity and want to get hold of a shirt for when we go back to PRO14.
“Newcastle are having a fantastic season, they mixed and matched their side last week but we’re planning for them to be a little bit stronger this week because they are back into the Premiership against Wasps the following week.
“It’s tough but this is a great competition to learn about the next tier of boys coming through.
“You look at the Blues so far this year and the amount of youngsters having opportunities, we have been surprised by how well they have adapted to that opportunity and taken it.
“Now it’s unearthing the next ones, the likes of Owen Lane, Ben Jones, Shane Lewis-Hughes. It’s a big weekend for people like that.”
Promising fly-half Ben Thomas, who was named Player of the Series after starring for Wales Under-18s in South Africa during the summer, is named among the replacements and will make his regional debut if called into action, as will Merthyr’s Ben Murphy.
Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Owen Lane, Jack Roberts, Harri Millard, Tom James; Ben Jones, Dane Blacker; Brad Thyer, Ethan Lewis, Anton Peikrishvili, George Earle (capt), James Down, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Ben White, Sion Bennett.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carre, Keiron Assiratti, Ben Murphy, Callum Bradbury, Lewis Jones, Ben Thomas, Dan Fish.