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Priestland set for competitive debut in URC opener

First Team News | 23rd September 2021

Rhys Priestland will make his Cardiff Rugby competitive debut on Friday, as the Blue and Blacks welcome Connacht to the capital for the United Rugby Championship opener.

The outside half, who arrived at the Arms Park from Bath over the summer, is one of 11 internationals named in Dai Young’s starting XV for the curtain raiser.

Having featured in both pre-season matches, Priestland continues his partnership with the experienced Lloyd Williams at half back.

Willis Halaholo is reunited with Rey Lee-Lo in midfield as Owen Lane, Jason Harries and Hallam Amos form the back three.

Josh Turnbull starts in the six jersey to kick off his tenure as club captain, and is joined by Ellis Jenkins and James Ratti in the back row.

Linking up with Seb Davies in the second row is newly-capped international, Matthew Screech, who gets his first outing in the blue and black since returning to the Arms Park over the summer.

The starting line-up is completed by the front row trio of Corey Domachowski, Kirby Myhill and Dmitri Arhip.

Director of rugby, Young, said: “It’s hugely important, but no less important for Connacht. Playing at home puts in a bit of added pressure.

“There’s added pressure to get a result because the first block of games is all about building points.

“You want to win games but you want to sit back after the five games and be happy with your point accumulation.

“We’ve got four out of five games at home so it’s a hugely important start for us and we need to pick up as many points as possible.

“I’ve got huge respect for Connacht. They play a great brand of rugby and if we’re not at our best then we’ll lose. It’s as simple as that.

“But we’re confident that if we bring our ‘A-game’ on the weekend then we’ll come away with the result. It will be tough but we can come away with the result.”

Further international firepower is included on the bench in the form of prop duo Rhys Carré and Dillon Lewis, as well as half backs Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans.

Will Boyde makes his first league appearance since last November, having returned from a lengthy facial injury during pre-season.

Young added: “The whole 23 is hugely important, and the bench is going to play a huge role for us on the weekend.

“We’re in a position where we can generally put a really strong 23 out, and there’s arguments that some boys on the bench could be starting.

“There’s not much between them and the boys that are starting, and that puts us in a really good light.

“Your first selection is always tough because people have had different amount of game-time. But the important thing for us is that we’ve got a strong 23.

“We have a 15 that can go out and do a job, while also having some real finishers and we see these boys as ones who can come on, make an impact and put us in a stronger position.

Cardiff Rugby: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Jason Harries; Rhys Priestland, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Kirby Myhill, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Matthew Screech, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Ellis Jenkins, James Ratti

Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Carré, Dillon Lewis, Rory Thornton, Will Boyde, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Max Llewellyn