Gethin Jenkins is set to make his final appearance of an incredible career that led to him becoming Wales’ record appearance maker in Cardiff Blues’ clash with Zebre.
The 37-year-old British and Irish Lion has been named amongst the replacements for his last career match after announcing his retirement earlier this week.
The three-time Grand Slam winner will be hoping to go out with a bang and secure Cardiff Blues their fourth Guinness PRO14 win of the season.
What’s at stake?
Despite Jenkins making his final career appearance there will be much more than pride on the line for the Cardiff Blues.
They were downed 21-10 by Toyota Cheetahs last time out and a win against Zebre would provide a welcome return to winning ways as they look to chase the leaders in Conference A.
The defeat ended a three-game winning run for John Mulvihill’s side in the league.
Likewise, Zebre will be looking to capitalise on the form that saw them down Edinburgh in impressive style last time out with a 34-16 victory at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
And if their previous meeting this season is anything to go off – Zebre will be feeling confident that they can replicate the form that saw them edge out the Welsh region by 26-24 in Parma when they overcame a 21-0 deficit to win.
Team news (Cardiff Blues):
Jenkins will make his final appearance in Cardiff colours off the with a chronic knee injury forcing the Welshman to curtail his career.
Mulvihill has made five changes to the starting line-up with Lloyd Williams remaining captain.
In the backs, his younger brother Tom, who joined the region on trial at the beginning of the season, starts at full-back, and Rey Lee-Lo returns to the centre to partner Garyn Smith.
Up front, Brad Thyer and Kirby Myhill return to the front row, while Nick Williams starts at No.8.
Team news (Zebre):
Zebre have shuffled the pack for this outing by making 11 changes from the side that beat Edinburgh last time out with players missing through injury and international selection.
David Sisi will captain Zebre for the first time since making the permanent switch from Bath in 2017.
Head coach Michael Bradley was forced to summon five permit players registered with other Italian clubs, with two Fiamme Oro Rugby players Jacopo Bianchi and Giovanni D’Onofrio, two players from Rugby Calvisano Marco Manfredi and Antoine Koffi and Davide Ruggeri all coming in.
In the backs line the only two changes consist of Gabriele Di Giulio and Francois Brummer, with the South African switching from full-back to fly-half.
Cardiff Blues head coach Mulvihill said: “It should be a great day and a great occasion. Hopefully we can pack CAP and get a big crowd, because Gethin certainly deserves it.
“He’s played 195 times for this club, a 129 Test matches for Wales and he’s won everything in the game, bar a World Cup.
“He’s been there and done it and it’s really fitting that he plays in front of a home crowd on Sunday.
“It’s a massive game for us. If we beat Zebre this Sunday, we would have won five out of the last seven, and you’d probably take that. If it were to be four out of seven, that wouldn’t be acceptable for us.”
This weekend sees a thunderous battle in the centre of the field with Italian international Tommaso Boni taking on Wales U20 international Garyn Smith.
Boni is recognised for his rugged, no-nonsense hard running style, while Smith possesses lightning quick bursts of pace and the ability to breeze past players.
A fascinating counter battle will be witnessed between the two contrasting styles of centres and the key to victory could come from the centre of the park.
Key fact: Cardiff Blues’ only defeat in their last seven Championship matches at Cardiff Arms Park was by a single point to Leinster in round one this season.
Did you know? The Italians have visited Wales on 23 previous occasions and won just once, at Cardiff Arms Park against the Blues in September 2013.
Cardiff Blues: Tom Williams, Aled Summerhill, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Jason Harries, Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams (c), Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill, Scott Andrews, George Earle, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Gethin Jenkins, Keiron Assiratti, James Down, Samu Manoa, Lewis Jones, Dan Fish, Harri Millard.
Zebre: Riccardo Raffaele, Antoine Koffi, Apisai Tauyavuca, Jacopo Bianchi, Leonard Krumov, David Sisi (c), Eduardo Bello, Luhandre Luus, Cruze Ah-Nau, Giovanni D’Onofrio, Gabriele Di Giulio, Tommaso Boni, Nicolas De Battista, Paula Balekana, Francois Brummer
Replacements: Marco Manfredi, Daniele Rimpelli, Roberto Tenga, Samuele Ortis, Davide Ruggeri, Maicol Azzolini, Jamie Elliott, Giovanbattista Venditti
TV: At Cardiff Arms Park, 2.45pm. Live on Premier Sports, Eir Sport, DAZN and Free Sports
Referee: George Clancy (106th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin and Mike English
Citing Commissioner: Paul Thomas
TMO: Brian MacNeice
Gethin Jenkins rode off into the sunset with another victory under his belt as Cardiff Blues put Zebre Rugby to the sword in a comfortable Guinness PRO14 win.
Jenkins, 37, came off the bench in the second half for his final ever professional appearance and was given a standing ovation after a 19-year career.
And his teammates provided a fitting send-off as Tom Williams, Kirby Myhill, Nick Williams and Rey Lee-Lo (2) all crossed in a bonus-point 37-0 win – their fourth league victory in five matches.
The Blues are now fourth in a tight Conference A and avenged their 26-24 defeat in Italy earlier this season, ensuring the away side did not complete the double against them for the first time in five years.
It was always set to be a special day for the Blues but there was a risk that Jenkins’ retirement was going to overshadow the match and provide a distraction.
But from the off they were alert, inventive and incisive, with Steve Shingler scoring the first points of the match inside three minutes with a penalty.
The fly-half was at the heart of everything the Blues produced in the early stages and his clever kick through set up Tom Williams for the first try of the match.
A second Shingler penalty put the Blues 11 points up at the break as Zebre struggled to leave a mark on their opponents and that trend continued in the second half, as Myhill bulldozed his way over the try line following a driving maul.
However, the biggest roar of the day was reserved for the 58th minute when Jenkins came off the bench to a standing ovation – both from the crowd and the players on the pitch.
The prop quickly made an impact, playing his part in the Blues’ third try of the match for Nick Williams – who touched down at the base of the post after some strong work by the forwards.
Zebre began to tire and the Blues quickly put the game beyond them with a bonus-point score, Lee-Lo bursting through a gap to score from Lewis Jones’ pop-up pass.
And the centre finished the match in style, grabbing his second from close range in the final minute. Jenkins attempted to land the conversion but pulled it wide.