Cardiff Blues have made two changes for their Guinness PRO14 derby with the Dragons on Boxing Day (2pm).
Following a hard-fought victory over Sale Sharks to remain top of their Challenge Cup pool, the Blues now enter a testing period of three consecutive Welsh derbies, starting at Rodney Parade on Tuesday.
In the backs Rey Lee-Lo replaces Willis Halaholo at centre, while up front Olly Robinson returns at open-side flanker after he was released back from Bristol early, with Macauley Cook moving into the second-row and Josh Navidi to the blindside.
Wales’ Capital Region have triumphed on the last five occasions against the Dragons but head coach Danny Wilson is under no illusion of the challenge ahead at a packed out Rodney Parade.
He said: “Facing our local rivals on Boxing Day, at a sold out Rodney Parade will be a great occasion and a great challenge for us.
“The Dragons are playing well at home and while we’ve had some good wins at the Arms Park the challenge now is to do it on the road.
“After beating Sale Sharks last week to stay top of our group in Europe we have a bit of momentum going into this period of three derbies in 11 days. It will certainly impact selection and test squad depth but we have a couple of players back or nearing a return.
“Having said that every time we have given an opportunity to young players they have stepped up and we will continue to reward good performances.”
Gethin Jenkins, who pulled out of last week’s victory over Sale, is set for a return to action after being named among the replacements, while Tom James is also included following short-term injury.
Following the Dragons, Cardiff Blues welcome the Scarlets to a packed Cardiff Arms Park on New Year’s Eve (3.15pm) and then travel to the Ospreys on January 6.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Aled Summerhill; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Brad Thyer, Matthew Rees (capt), Anton Peikrishvili, Seb Davies, Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Gethin Jenkins, Keiron Assiratti, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Lloyd Williams, Jarrod Evans, Tom James.
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