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James to make competitive return to action

11th January 2019

Tom James will make his Cardiff Blues comeback in Sunday's Heineken Champions Cup clash against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium.

The 12-times capped Wales international took an extended break from the game due to depression last year and has not appeared for the first team in a competitive fixture since the end of 2017.

He featured during pre-season and since for Cardiff Blues A, Cardiff RFC and Pontypridd as he continued his return but that was hampered by a number of minor injuries.

However, James is now one of 12 changes for the trip to Glasgow with Matthew Rees also making his long-awaited return to action and captaining the side.

Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill said: “We’re really excited to see TJ back 100 per cent fit, happy and healthy. 

“He has had to bide his time and be patient to get his body back right following his break and he has had some setbacks along the way but he’s hung in there and thoroughly deserves this opportunity. He is really motivated to contribute to a big performance.

“It’s also great to have Smiler back. He was the leading hooker towards the end of last year and unfortunately got injured but he wants to get back there and wants to show us that he can still be the number one hooker

"He galvanises the team around him, he will keep them on the straight and narrow and we won't deviate too far from the game plan.”

Brad Thyer and Dillon Lewis both come into the starting line-up, and pack down either side of Rees, while George Earle and Rory Thornton form a new look second row.

Shane Lewis-Hughes is handed his senior, competitive debut in the back-row alongside Josh Navidi and Seb Davies.

Behind the scrum, Lloyd Williams partners Steve Shingler and Willis Halaholo and Harri Millard form a dynamic midfield. In the back three, James is joined by Owen Lane and Dan Fish.

Jarrod Evans also makes his return from injury on the bench, while Rhys Carre is in line for his European debut.

Cardiff Blues are already out of contention for the knockout stages and will face a Glasgow side fighting to keep their own hopes alive.

But Mulvihill is determined to see his side give a good account of themselves and has reiterated the importance of remaining in the competition for next season.

He added: “It’s exciting to be back in this competition. This is where we want to be again next year. We won’t make the final in Europe this year but to be in the Heineken Champions Cup again next season, we’ll have to finish third in our PRO14 Conference or win that play-off.”

Cardiff Blues: D Fish; O Lane, H Millard, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; B Thyer, M Rees (capt), D Lewis, G Earle, R Thornton, S Lewis-Hughes, J Navidi, S Davies.

Replacements: E Lewis, R Carre, S Andrews, M Cook, N Williams, T Williams, J Evans, A Summerhill