Cardiff Blues head into Friday’s Welsh derby eager to bounce back from their first defeat of the Guinness PRO12 season, but Steve Tandy insists his Ospreys side are ready and waiting for the battle that lies ahead.
The Blues fell to a narrow 16-13 defeat to Leinster on Saturday, having held a ten-point advantage at the interval before Johnny Sexton and Rhys Ruddock inspired a late victory for the Irish side.
Ospreys are also looking to return to winning ways following consecutive defeats to Leinster and Ulster in recent weeks, with Tandy preferring Sam Davies over Dan Biggar in an otherwise unchanged 15 from Saturday’s loss at the Kingspan Stadium.
And while Tandy admits they will welcome a Blues side tipped for the win to the Liberty Stadium, he has full confidence his side can upset the odds.
“We know that it’s going to be tough this weekend but we are all looking forward to it,” said Tandy.
“The Blues are coming down as favourites, they’ve had a great start to the season and will be confident of getting the win, so we understand that we have to stand up to them and really perform.
“It’s building nicely to be a huge game, a big contest between local rivals in front of a passionate crowd, which is exactly what we want.
“It’s the kind of occasion that Welsh rugby needs and that everybody wants to be involved in. With the Blues starting the season so well, they have shown what they are capable of and they will want to really push forward this weekend.
“We showed in the second half in Leinster and then for 80 minutes against Ulster that, if we get everything right that we need to, we can compete.
“It was incredibly disappointing to lose last weekend in the manner we did, but there’s no better game to focus on and get a reaction from the squad than a huge derby match against the Blues.”
Blues head coach Danny Wilson has made four changes to his outfit for the first Welsh derby of the season, with Sam Warburton and George Earle ruled out through injury.
Josh Navidi and Macauley Cook will start in the pack, with Dan Fish replacing Matthew Morgan at full-back and Garyn Smith set for his first start of the season.
The Blues won four of their six Welsh derbies last season, but have struggled to overcome Ospreys in recent years, not recording a win over their opposition since 2010.
And after seeing their unbeaten form stutter at BT Cardiff Arms Park last weekend, Wilson wants to see an immediate response from his players on Saturday.
“Following last weekend, our first defeat of the season, we have had a good review and view it as a missed opportunity to beat a good Leinster side,” he said.
“There are a couple of areas we have identified that we want to improve upon going into the Ospreys game.
“They are a good team with a lot of high profile players and are well coached. It is going to be a tough game but it is a Welsh derby and everyone is excited and motivated for the first one of the season.
“We go into the game on the back of a good start, with four wins from five, so we have a bit of confidence but we know it will be a big test at the Liberty Stadium.”
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Jeff Hassler, Ben John, Josh Matavesi, Eli Walker, Sam Davies, Rhys Webb, Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Dmitri Arhip, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), James King, Justin Tipuric, Dan Baker
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Paul James, Ma’afu Fia, Rory Thornton, Dan Lydiate, Tom Habberfield, Dan Biggar, Ashley Beck
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Blaine Scully, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Tom James; Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Kristian Dacey, Taufa’ao Filise, Macauley Cook, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, James Down, Cam Dolan, Tomos Williams, Steven Shingler, Matthew Morgan
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Ospreys won 18, Blues won 7 with 1 game drawn.
At Liberty Stadium, 7.35pm. Live on BBC Wales
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 138th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Gareth Newman (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Aurwell Morgan (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)
Ospreys scored seven tries as they recovered from an early deficit in their Guinness PRO12 Welsh derby with Cardiff Blues to win 46-24 as Eli Walker starred with a double.
Alun Wyn Jones, two tries from Walker and Dimitri Arhip all scored before the break for the Ospreys as they took control of the game, while Ben John and Dan Evans touched down straight after half-time in the romp, with Josh Matavesi adding No.7.
Gareth Anscombe slotted over an early penalty for Cardiff Blues but Ospreys replied almost immediately through Sam Davies off the tee.
The Blues fell to a narrow 16-13 defeat to Leinster last weekend, having held a ten-point advantage at the interval but they seemed back to their best against the Ospreys as they dominated the early exchanges.
The Ospreys were penalised at the breakdown on the halfway line after 17 minutes, Anscombe found touch to bring his side back into the Ospreys 22m.
And a great driving maul from the resulting line-out saw Kristian Dacey drive over, with Anscombe adding the extras.
Ospreys were looking to return to winning ways following consecutive defeats to Leinster and Ulster in recent weeks, with Davies preferred to Dan Biggar at No.10 in an otherwise unchanged 15 from last weekend’s loss at the Kingspan Stadium.
But the home side struggled to assert themselves against a pumped up Cardiff in the first quarter of the game.
Dan Fish’s kick was charged down inside his own 22m by Davies on 20 minutes. Referee Nigel Owens looked to the TMO for a potential off the ball tackle and Fish was sin-binned attempting to atone for his error.
Ospreys kicked to the corner from the resulting penalty and Welsh international Alun Wyn Jones was the lucky recipient from the resulting pressure as he burrowed his way over for his 100th point for his side. Davies added the extras to level things up.
And it could have got worse for Cardiff on 24 minutes but Davies missed his drop goal to put the Ospreys in the box seat.
The Ospreys took further advantage of the extra man, as Eli Walker found space on the right to dive over on 27 minutes but Davies missed the conversion.
And things got even worse for Cardiff Blues minutes later as Walker scored his second try of the night for the now rampant Ospreys.
Dan Evans gathered a deep kick and broke to give the Ospreys a good platform, with the ball shipped wide to Walker to score and Davies added the extras to make it 22-10.
And the Ospreys sealed the bonus point, with Dimitri Arhip this time crossing the whitewash to make the score 27-10 but Davies hit the woodwork with his conversion.
Ospreys extended their lead on 41 minutes as Ben John was awarded a score from close range via the TMO, with Davies adding the extras.
And just four minutes later the Ospreys added their sixth score of the game as Dan Evans crossed, with Davies this time missing the conversion to leave the score at 39-10.
Tom James pulled a score back for Cardiff after the hour mark, with Anscombe adding a conversion for the Blues.
But the comeback was short-lived as Josh Matavesi scored the Ospreys seventh try, with Dan Biggar extending the score to 46-17.
Reynold Lee-Lo went over for another late score for Cardiff to soften the blow of their heavy defeat, with Anscombe again adding the extras off the tee.
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
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