Thomas Young and Lopeti Timani return as Cardiff prepare for their Boxing Day derby against the Dragons in the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Cardiff travel to Rodney Parade for the first of three back-to-back Welsh derbies over the festive period, as they prepare to welcome Ospreys (January 1) and Scarlets (January 7) to the capital in the New Year.
Young, who has been in fine form since returning to the capital over the summer, missed out on last week’s trip to Newcastle but returns to the back row for Monday’s encounter. Taulupe Faletau is given the nod at number eight, as he prepares to face his former club, while captain Josh Turnbull completes the back-row.
Lopeti Timani also returns, after he was rested last week, and he links up with Rory Thornton in the boiler room, with Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher and Dmitri Arhip forming the front row.
After making a switch to full back during the second half of last week’s win over Newcastle Falcons, Josh Adams will wear the number 15 jersey in Newport, as Theo Cabango re-joins the back three.
With Max Llewellyn ruled out for 10-12 weeks with an ankle injury, Ben Thomas takes his place at inside centre, while Tomos Williams is paired with Rhys Priestland at half back.
Cardiff triumphed over their East Wales rivals earlier this season but Young has warned the Blue and Blacks that they must be at their best.
The Cardiff director of rugby said: “We have a good record against the Dragons but we have rode our luck on a number of occasions recently and there are games where they probably deserved to win.
“They have continued their improvement this season, they have the strongest squad they have had in a long time and Dai Flanagan’s brought further positivity and confidence to their ranks. We will definitely need to be at our best and are preparing for a hugely physical challenge at Rodney Parade.
“We go into the encounter on the back of some good form with two bonus-point wins in the European Challenge Cup but we know this will be a step up in intensity and physicality.
“If we can perform to our best then we can kick-off a busy Christmas period with a good win before facing the Ospreys and Scarlets back at the Arms Park. The group is hugely motivated and excited for a crucial run of fixtures, which could define our season.”
Ellis Jenkins features on the bench, alongside Mason Grady, who scored two tries from two appearances as a replacement in the Challenge Cup, while experienced half backs Lloyd Williams and Jarrod Evans return to the matchday 23, having been rested last week.
Cardiff: Josh Adams; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Theo Cabango; Rhys Priestland, Tomos Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Lopeti Timani, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Thomas Young, Taulupe Faletau
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Will Davies-King, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins, Lloyd Williams, Jarrod Evans, Mason Grady
Unavailable for selection: Josh Navidi, Willis Halaholo, Liam Williams, Jacob Beetham, Gwilym Bradley, James Botham, Dillon Lewis, Jamie Hill, Max Llewellyn, James Ratti