RaboDirect Pro12: Rees set to make first Cardiff start since cancer battle
RaboDirect Pro12: Wales international Matthew Rees is set to make his first Cardiff start since beating testicular cancer
Matthew Rees will make his first start for Cardiff Blues since overcoming his battle with testicular cancer against his former side on Judgement Day II at the Millennium Stadium.
The Wales international is one of three changes to the Blues side which defeated Edinburgh as they look to win their first match against the Scarlets since April 2010 and three league matches in a row since November 2011.
Also back in the forwards is London Wasps-bound lock Bradley Davies, who will make his first start of the year after recovering from an ankle injury.
There’s more at stake than just league points. We have plenty to play for in our remaining games
Centre Dafydd Hewitt is also promoted from the bench after scoring the winning try against the Scots at Meggetland last week as wing Chris Czekaj reaches 100 league appearances in his final season with the Welsh region.
“I think we have turned ‘a’ corner but not ‘the’ corner with recent results,” said Blues defence coach Dale McIntosh. “We’ve improved and we’ve won two games, but it’s only two games.
“We face a formidable challenge on Sunday and perhaps we will see where we really are. It’s only two games we have won and we need to keep building.
“We want passion and desire from our players. We will need that tenacity and edge.”
Scarlets will also enjoy a major boost with forwards John Barclay, Ken Owens, Samson Lee and Phil John returning to the starting XV, while the Pro12’s leading try-scorer Gareth Davies returns at scrum-half.
Simon Easterby’s side have won their last two matches at the Millennium Stadium, against Bath in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final in 2006 and last year’s Judgement Day clash with Newport Gwent Dragons and start as favourites in the first of two Welsh derby clashes in the capital.
“We have three derby games coming up and they’re all key for us – particularly as we have not won a Welsh derby this season,” said Easterby.
“There’s more at stake than just league points. We have plenty to play for in our remaining games but we’re not looking past the Blues on Sunday.
“I think with everyone that’s fit and available it’s a good trial for international players, matching up against each other – places up for grabs like to think that the players are playing for their regions first and foremost though.”
The Blues’ only win against Welsh opposition in their last six matches came on New Year’s Day against the Dragons, while the Scarlets—who are in pole position for a place in next season’s European Champions Cup—have lost their last three outings against Welsh opposition.
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Dafydd Hewitt, Chris Czekaj; Gareth Davies, Lewis Jones; Gethin Jenkins (captain), Matthew Rees, Taufa’ao Filise, Bradley Davies, Filo Paulo, Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Thomas Davies, Scott Andrews, Chris Dicomidis, Ellis Jenkins; Lloyd Williams, Simon Humberstone, Gavin Evans
Scarlets: Liam Williams; Kristian Phillips, Jonathan Davies (captain), Gareth Maule, Jordan Williams; Rhys Priestland, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, George Earle, Aaron Shingler, John Barclay, Josh Turnbull.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rob Evans, Rhodri Jones, Johan Snyman, Sione Timani; Rhodri Williams, Steven Shingler, Frazier Climo.
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)