Cardiff Blues welcome Edinburgh Rugby to Cardiff Arms Park on Friday, as they open their 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 campaign (KO 7.35pm).
Danny Wilson’s side go into the new season on the back of two hard fought victories, against London Scottish and Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs, and will look to repeat last season’s bright start to the campaign.
In fact, a streak of four Championship victories on the bounce last season started with Edinburgh’s visit to CAP in September. The Blues picked up a bonus point on the night, following a penalty try and scores from Tomos Williams and debutants Nick Williams and Steven Shingler.
In the reverse fixture at Myreside in February, tries from Sion Bennett and Lloyd Williams saw the Blues bounce back from a 11-point deficit to claim a momentous victory.
It’s been a summer of change at the Scottish capital, with former Leicester Tigers and Toulon head coach, Richard Cockerill, taking charge at Myreside, and looking to change the club’s fortune on both domestic and European fronts.
Cardiff Blues’ 2016/17 Player of the Season, Rey Lee-Lo, returns to the line-up after an extended break following his international duties with Samoa, and is re-united with Willis Halaholo in midfield.
Promising youngsters Jarrod Evans and Aled Summerhill are also named amongst the backs, after impressive displays in both pre-season fixtures.
Evans will be partnered by Lloyd Williams at scrum-half, while Alex Cuthbert and Matthew Morgan are also named in the back three.
In the forwards, Matthew Rees captains the side, and starts in a front row that also includes experienced international Rhys Gill and Taufa’ao Filise.
Seb Davies and new signing Damian Welch start the game in the boiler room, while Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi and Nick Williams combine in the back row.
The likes of Tomos Williams, Sion Bennett, Tom James and Steven Shingler will be looking to make an impact from the bench.
For the visitors, 22-year-old captain Magnus Bradbury wears the number eight shirt, with Jamie Ritchie and John Hardie on the flanks.
Former Wales Sevens star, Jason Harries, makes his debut on the wing, and Scottish Internationals Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Duncan Weir line-up at half back.
What They Said
Cardiff Blues head coach, Danny Wilson, expects to face an Edinburgh side looking to make their mark on the new coaching regime.
"Now is their first chance under their new coach to make a mark, and I'm sure they'll be coming over extremely motivated on Friday night,” said Wilson.
"Richard's record goes before him. He's an extremely well organised, a hard-nosed coach who puts that steel into teams he coaches.
"You just have to look at the last two sides he's been involved with. Leicester Tigers and their record over the long period and then Toulon who came extremely close in the latter stages of their competition.
"He's a quality coach, they've always had a big pack of forwards who set-piece well, a good defence and I don't see that changing from Richard Cockerill taking over.
"It's a big challenge for us and it will be interesting to see what changes he'll make there.”
Meanwhile, captain Matthew Rees insists the Blues must continue the progress that were made on the defensive side of the game over pre-season, as they continue to work alongside consultant Shaun Edwards.
"A massive step-up for us is the defence. If you want to win competitions or cups, defence has the most impact to play on that. Against a very strong Exeter team I felt we were comfortable pretty much throughout that game.
"The most important game now is Friday night.
"They've changed their coaching set-up with Cockerill coming in and we know how tough a taskmaster he can be, especially at set-piece, and that's probably where the biggest challenge will be.”Cardiff Blues:
Matthew Morgan; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Aled Summerhill; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill, Matthew Rees (capt.), Taufa’ao Filise, Seb Davies, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, Macauley Cook, Sion Bennett, Tomos Williams, Steven Shingler, Tom James
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fife, Chris Dean, Junior Rasolea, Jason Harries; Duncan Weir, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Darryl Marfo, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, John Hardie, Magnus Bradbury (capt)
Replacements: Ross Ford, Michele Rizzo, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez, Nathan Fowles, Jason Tovey, Glenn Bryce