DFP Header Area

Blues’ big guns will face the Dragons

Guinness PRO12 Editor

23 Aug 2010

Cardiff Blues fans can expect to see the region’s star names in action in Saturday’s final pre-season friendly against the Dragons.

John Yapp was the only Wales summer tourist to feature in the weekend win at Exeter, while a whole host of international talent sat out the 26-21 victory down in Devon.

The likes of Xavier Rush, Casey Laulala, Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Ben Blair, Bradley Davies, Leigh Halfpenny and Deniol Jones were all rested, while Richie Rees was an unused replacement.

Star summer signing Dan Parks joined Rees on the bench at Sandy Park but Ceri Sweeney was given the full 80 minutes to press his claims for the No10 shirt.

That’s all set to change when the Dragons arrive in town, with the Blues promising to ring the changes in preparation for the Magners League opener at home to Edinburgh in a fortnight.

"If people are going to take part in the first Magners League game, they have to have game time before that. So a lot of the boys have to have game time next week," said Blues forwards coach Justin Burnell.

"They were all here in Exeter. I think it was quite nice that all of the others in the squad travelled down in the morning on a separate bus to be here. That’s a big plus.

"It’s no hidden secret that we’ve identified that we need to do well in the Magners League and we’ve targeted that this year. To see the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush, Casey Laulala, Dan Parks and Richie Rees all sitting here, we must have had 15 players in the stand.
"But going into the first Magners League game, we’ll be going gung ho and they’ll all be taking part in next week’s game."

The Blues scored four tries in Saturday’s win over the English Premiership new boys, with Tom James and Chris Czekaj crossing in the first half and debutant Tom Brownand Tom Shanklin matching the feat in the second.

That made it nine wins in a row for the Blues, who won their last five Magners League games plus three more ties on their way to Amlin Challenge Cup glory at the end of last season.

But while confidence is clearly high at the Welsh capital region, the Blues won’t be getting carried away ahead of Saturday’s clash with their local rivals.

Burnell is unsurprisingly expecting a stiff challenge at the Cardiff City Stadium – the kind of challenge he says he players need prior to the new season.

"That’s the thing about Welsh rugby – is there such a thing as a friendly?" added Burnell.

"Are we going to take it as a friendly? No. We’re taking it as a stepping stone, just as we did against Exeter.

"It’s the Dragons versus the Blues at the end of the day. Whether their youngsters or their senior players are playing, you’ve got to remember that it’s one of the oldest local derbies.

"Of course it’ll be tough. And it’s Martyn Williams’ testimonial as well so all the boys will want to take part in it, and they’ll have to take part if they want to be considered for selection for the first game.

"From our point of view, it’ll be gung ho and that’s pretty exciting. What the Dragons are going to bring to the table, who knows, but I wouldn’t have thought they’ll want to come to the stadium and roll over, would they?"