Cardiff Blues open up their campaign at the BT Sports Cardiff Arms Park against Edinburgh on Friday night in a game that kicks off at 7.35pm. Both teams finished in the bottom half of the table last term, so will be looking to improve in the inaugural Guinness PRO14 season.
What’s at stake? This game will be Richard Cockerill’s first competitive match in charge of Edinburgh after he joined over the summer from Toulon. The former Leicester Tigers boss has set his sights on improving on Edinburgh’s recent record in the league.
Continuity has been the focus for the Blues under Danny Wilson as they seek to build on a seventh-place finish last year.
Team news (Cardiff Blues): Wilson will be able to call on the services of last year’s player of the season Rey Lee-Lo, who has not featured in the pre-season. Matthew Rees will captain the side and is part of an experienced pack which will hope to call on the carrying ability of Nick Williams at No.8.
Team news (Edinburgh): Leading the Edinburgh side into the Richard Cockerill era will be new skipper Magnus Bradbury, who starts at No.8. He is part of a promising back row alongside the experienced John Hardie, and fellow youngster Jamie Ritchie. WP Nel is fit to take his place at tighthead while Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Duncan Weir will be paired in the half-backs.
Talking points: It’s all about the ‘Cockers’ effect and whether the former England hooker can make an immediate impact on the team from the Scottish capital. Cockerill has made no secret of his ambitions at Edinburgh, and while he admits progress will take time, an early win on the road would be very welcome.
Key Battle: Both have already been mentioned above but the battle of the No.8s should be a fine contrast in styles. Cardiff can call on the power of Nick Williams, still one of the most devastating carriers with ball in hand. By contrast, Bradbury is a versatile back rower who takes on the captaincy at the age of 22. A fine all-round player, he will be important both in defence and attack for Edinburgh.
Key stat: These two teams met in the opening round of last season at the same ground. On that occasion, Cardiff Blues won 34-16. Tomos Williams’ try nine minutes from time sealed the bonus point for the Welsh side.
Did you know? Richard Cockerill won three Premiership titles while he was in charge of Leicester and then reached the final of the Top 14 last season at the helm with Toulon.
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; A Cuthbert, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, A Summerhill; J Evans, L Williams; R Gill, M Rees, T Filise; S Davies, D Welch; J Turnbull, J Navidi, N Williams.
Replacements: K Myhill, C Domachowski, K Assiratti, M Cook, S Bennett, T Williams, S Shingler, T James.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, C Dean, J Rasolea, J Harries; D Weir, S Hidalgo-Clyne; D Marfo, S McInally, WP Nel; A Bresler, G Gilchrist; J Ritchie, J Hardie, M Bradbury.
Replacements: R Ford, M Rizzo, S Berghan, B Toolis, C du Preez, N Fowles, J Tovey, G Bryce.
TV: BBC Wales/BBC Alba (KO 7.35pm)
Match officials – Referee: George Clancy (IRFU). Assistant Referee 1: Nigel Correll (IRFU). AR2: Adam Jones (WRU). TMO: Brian MacNiece (IRFU).
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Richard Cockerill was left beaming on the final whistle after marking his first Guinness PRO14 game in charge of Edinburgh with an away day win at Cardiff Blues.
The game was secured for Edinburgh thanks a superb kicking display from Duncan Weir and tries from Blair Kinghorn and Chris Dean.
Edinburgh were ruthless in attack, particularly after the break, and were well worth their hard-fought win against a below-par Cardiff.
The clash marked Cockerill’s first competitive match at the Edinburgh helm after he joined over the summer from Toulon and his arrival seems to have instilled a new-look steel in his side’s defending.
These two teams met in the opening round of last season at the same ground and on that occasion, Cardiff Blues won 34-16 – but it looked very different indeed in the early stages 12 months on as the visitors dominated.
The Blues started like an express train and created the game’s first opportunity early on. A penalty saw Jarrod Evans kick for touch but Edinburgh defended the five-metre lineout well under pressure.
Edinburgh grew into the game as the half wore on and it was the visitors who raced into an 11th-minute lead, Kinghorn finishing expertly in the corner after he beat multiple defenders to touch down.
The ever-reliable Weir added the extras off the tee as Cockerill’s men carved out a seven-point advantage.
And Weir extended Edinburgh’s lead just before the half hour mark as he nailed a penalty to put Cockerill’s men 10-0 ahead.
An unforced error from Edinburgh after 37 minutes handed the Blues an unexpected lifeline back into the fixture.
An attempted clearance was foiled on the Edinburgh line, Cardiff recycled the ball, and Josh Navidi touched down, with Evans adding the conversion to leave the score at 10-7.
Cockerill did not look a happy man at the break after seeing his side dominate the opening 40 minutes but still only come in three points to the good.
After playing second fiddle at the scrum in the first half, Cardiff looked a different side altogether after the break and started to dominate the set-piece.
The home team were rewarded for a dominant scrum on 48 minutes and Evans made no mistake to bring the scores level.
Edinburgh edged ahead in the game just a few minutes later as Weir continued his fine kicking off the tee to put the visitors 13-10 ahead. th
And the away side got their noses further in front on 58 minutes as Dean stretched to score a 56th-minute try, with Weir adding the conversion to give Cockerill’s men a ten-point lead.
Rather than sitting back on their lead, Edinburgh continued to boss territory and possession and were unfortunate not to add a third score in the final ten minutes.