Danny Wilson insists the Cardiff Blues will be facing the best team in the Guinness PRO12 when they take on Glasgow Warriors on Friday night.
Warriors have begun with a pair of maximum point victories in the Guinness PRO12 – no side has ever tallied 15 points after three rounds.
The Scotsmen have not been defeated by a Welsh region since Scarlets visited Scotstoun in round 1 last season and have won their last ten fixtures against Blues in the Guinness PRO12.
Wilson has called up four Wales internationals into his starting line-up as a result – Josh Turnbull and Sam Warburton come into a reshuffled pack, replacing Macauley Cook and Nick Williams who drop to the bench.
Lloyd Williams is preferred to Tomos Williams and Matthew Morgan replaces Dan Fish, who has been ruled out due to a minor ankle injury.
“We have selected with an approach to beat Glasgow and then secondly to make sure this squad develops because the games come thick and fast,” Wilson said.
“At this minute Glasgow are the best team in the Championship. They have shown that again in the start they have made.
“They are a very well coached, a very well drilled side that have performed at the top end of the PRO12 for a long time.
“They have started this Championship well so it will be a huge challenge, our toughest game yet, but if we could get a win at home then what a platform to build on.
“I feel we’re in a similar place, we are an in-form team coming off the back of two wins and we will play them with huge confidence.”
For the Warriors Nick Grigg comes in to make his first competitive start for the Warriors.
Josh Strauss starts at No.8 after returning from injury, while Ryan Wilson moves to openside flanker and Rob Harley completes the back-row at blindside.
Both Ali Price and Rory Clegg make their first starts of the season in the half-back positions, while Peter Horne shifts to inside centre to accompany Nick Grigg who will wear 13 on his first competitive start.
Lee Jones also makes his first start of the campaign on the left wing, Stuart Hogg starts at full-back and last week’s man of the match Tommy Seymour will look to continue his try-scoring form on the other flank having scored six in the opening two games.
In the front-row, Zander Fagerson joins Gordon Reid and Fraser Brown and behind them is Tim Swinson, who has also scored in the opening two matches, accompanying captain Jonny Gray in the second-row.
Olympic silver medalist Mark Bennett is involved for the first time since returning from the Rugby 7s in Rio and he’ll hope to make an impression from the bench.
Greg Peterson, Grayson Hart and Rory Hughes will also play their first competitive rugby of the season if they come on and they are joined by Pat MacArthur, Alex Allan, Sila Puafisi and Lewis Wynne to complete the replacements.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Nick Grigg has worked very hard during pre-season and played well against Harlequins and Canada ‘A’ last month. He deserves his opportunity tomorrow.
“It’s also great that we’re able to welcome Josh Strauss and Mark Bennett back into the squad. Josh has recovered from an ankle injury and Mark came back from Rio fit and hungry and it didn’t take him long to integrate himself back into the group.
“Cardiff have started the season very strongly and can score tries from anywhere. They have had excellent wins against Edinburgh and Munster and we’re going to need to improve defensively to get a positive result at the Arms Park tomorrow night.”
Glasgow: Hogg, Seymour, Grigg, Horne, Jones, Clegg, Price, Reid, Brown, Fagerson, Swinson, Gray, Harley, Wilson, Strauss
Replacements: MacArthur, Allan, Puafisi, Peterson, Wynne, Hart, Bennett, Hughes
Cardiff: Morgan, Cuthbert, Allen, Lee-Lo, James, Anscombe, L.Williams, Jenkins, Dacey, Filise, Earle, Turnbull, Warburton, Jenkins, Navidi
Replacements: Rees, Gill, Andrews, Cook, N.Willliams, T.Williams, Shingler, Scully
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Cardiff Blues won 10, Glasgow Warriors won 16.
At BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, 7pm.
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU, 82nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway (IRFU), Simon Rees (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Chris Morgan (WRU)
Cardiff Blues maintained their dream start to the Guinness PRO12 season as they edged a thriller against Glasgow Warriors 23-19 at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
First-half tries from Alex Cuthbert and Rey Lee-Lo got them on their way, and despite huge pressure from the Warriors, who scored three tries of their own through Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne and Ali Price, Danny Wilson’s men held on.
The win allows the Blues to maintain a start which has seen them beat Edinburgh and Munster already, and they carried that form into this clash with a blistering opening in the Welsh capital.
Lee-Lo is a key carrier in their midfield and it was on one such burst that the Blues took the lead, with Gordon Reid penalised for not rolling away and Gareth Anscombe slotting three points after just two minutes.
Glasgow, meanwhile, had in-form Tommy Seymour struggling with a knock early after a big tackle from Lee-Lo, and Cardiff had soon doubled their lead.
Again it came from Warriors indiscipline at the breakdown, Ryan Wilson pinged after a prolonged spell of pressure.
Then on 25 minutes the try finally came, with Cuthbert getting his first of the season. After a few charges from the forwards, the home team spread the ball and Anscombe’s pass in behind Lee-Lo sent Cuthbert straight through for the easy finish.
With Anscombe’s conversion the lead was 13-0 and Glasgow looked to be in real trouble, but they hit back immediately.
They had barely been in Cardiff territory, but when they got the opportunity, they pounced with Hogg getting on the end of an inside ball after some quick hands in the Warriors backline.
Rory Clegg converted and Glasgow should have taken the lead five minutes later when they worked a massive overlap, but Hogg’s wide pass was dropped by Wilson and the home side got away with it.
It was only a temporary respite for the Blues though, with the visitors pouncing on an error from Josh Navidi. As the No.8 carried from the base of the scrum he knocked it on allowing Clegg to regain possession. The ball was shifted to Horne, who showed his power to get over, wriggling out of one tackle before crossing. Clegg converted to give Glasgow the lead for the first time.
However right on the stroke of half-time, the home side got back in front thanks to some quick-thinking from Anscombe.
Seemingly about to kick the ball out for a penalty, he instead tapped and went and put Tom James away. A few phases later and it was Lee-Lo who crossed after good work by Navidi to feed him. Anscombe nailed the conversion to make it 20-14 at the break.
Cardiff started the second half well, with a searing break from James, but the Glasgow defence got back in time to avert the danger.
And it was the visitors who got back to within a point on 50 minutes. Lee Jones got away down the wing and after the ball was recycled quickly, Price decided to go himself and wormed his way past Nick Williams and over. Clegg couldn’t convert so Glasgow still trailed by one.
Cardiff could have killed off the game when Steven Shingler sliced through, but he couldn’t find his support with just one man to beat.
They did however stretch the lead to four points with a penalty from Shingler, Josh Turnbull having been taken out at a lineout.
And although Glasgow reclaimed the ball from the restart, they couldn’t find a way through and the Blues hung on.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final