Cardiff Blues welcome back a host of senior players as they return to the Guinness PRO12 against Connacht on Sunday (1.05pm).
Following two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action the focus returns to the Championship and the Blues’ bid to climb into the top six.
Head coach Danny Wilson has recalled several stars and has been boosted by the return of Kristian Dacey and Scott Andrews from the Wales Six Nations squad.
Lloyd Williams captains the team and partners Gareth Anscombe at half-back, with Steve Shingler combining with Rey Lee-Lo in the midfield. Matthew Morgan, Rhun Williams and Blaine Scully form the back-three.
Up front, Dacey goes straight back into the starting line-up with Rhys Gill and Anton Peikrishvili the props.
Jarrad Hoeata and James Down start in the second-row while Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi and Nick Williams combine in the back-row.
Wales’ Capital Region are currently six points adrift of the top half of the table and enter a crucial sequence of matches, which Wilson believes can define their season.
The Blues slipped to an 18-7 defeat to Connacht in Galway earlier this season but they have not lost to the Irish province at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park since 2013.
Wilson said: “We know Connacht is the start of a huge block for us – Connacht at home, Treviso at home, Edinburgh away and Munster back home during the Six Nations period.
“We have a rough idea of what we have to do to finish in the top six. We have had a couple of blows in the league which have dented that but we’re sat seventh and we have picked up some wins, which we didn’t manage last season.
“It’s now the start of a four game block that has the capability of defining our season.
“We are fully aware we need our best players available to us, we’re starting to get some of them back and we need to improve some of the inconsistencies we’ve seen.
“Ultimately it’s about the league, it’s about the top six and the next four games will be massive.
“Connacht are league champions, they are the next team below us and a very good team. It will be a tough fixture and we will need to be at our best.”
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Steve Shingler, Rhun Williams; Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Williams (capt); Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Anton Peikrishvili, Jarrad Hoeata, James Down, Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Marc Thomas, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Sion Bennett, Tomos Williams, Willis Halaholo, Tom James
12 Feb 2017
12 May 2017