Cardiff Blues v Benetton | Guinness Pro14 | Sunday 23rd February 2020
Cardiff Blues: WLLWL
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Italian side who impressed at times in the Heineken Champions Cup, pushing the likes of Leinster and Northampton, as well as beating Lyon, but they have struggled in the Guinness Pro14 with only a double over Zebre and a narrow home win against Kings to show for their efforts.
Cardiff Blues were hoping to continue the recovery from a slow start to the season, during which the away win over Benetton was a big moment, but were knocked back in dramatic style last week with that 29-0 loss away at Connacht.
Benetton 28-31 Cardiff Blues – 30/11/2019
Benetton 27-25 Cardiff Blues – 08/09/2018
Cardiff Blues 31-25 Benetton – 16/03/2018
Cardiff Blues 57-20 Benetton – 18/02/2017
Benetton 28-34 Cardiff Blues – 04/11/2016
Cardiff Blues got back to winning ways against Benetton before Christmas with a late Jason Harries try securing the unlikely win. Before the loss at the start of last season there were four Cardiff Blues wins in a row over the Italian side, who have never won at the Arms Park.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos, Jason Harries, Garyn Smith, Ben Thomas, Ryan Edwards, Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams (c); Rhys Gill, Liam Belcher, Scott Andrews, James Ratti, Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Josh Turnbull
Replacements: Kris Dacey, Brad Thyer, Dmitri Arhip, Rory Thornton, Will Boyde, Lewis Jones, Max Llewellyn, Dan Fish
There are five changes to the starting XV that lost to Connacht last week as the injured Rey Lee-Lo misses out to be replaced by Ben Thomas with Garyn Smith shifting to outside centre, while the other four changes are tactical moves from John Mulvihill.
Scott Andrews is preferred at tighthead with Seb Davies getting the nod at second row. Shane Lewis-Hughes is back from injury at blindside flanker with Josh Turnbull switching to number eight, while in the backs Hallam Amos moves to full-back and Ryan Edwards starts on the wing.
Benetton: Luca Sperandio, Angelo Esposito, Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Monty Ioane, Ian Keatley (c), Charly Trussardi; Nicola Quaglio, Tomas Baravalle, Tiziano Pasquali, Irne Herbst, Eli Snyman, Michele Lamaro, Federico Ruzza, Toa Halafihi
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Cherif Traore, Simone Ferrari, Marco Fuser, Nasi Manu, Luca Petrozzi, Ian McKinley, Tommaso Benvenuti
In the end Benetton had no game last week, as their trip to Dragons was called off due to the weather, so there’s no changes to look at from that game. They are missing 11 players to the Italian squad though.
Despite that they get Federico Ruzza and Tommaso Benvenuti back from the Azzurri, and they form part of 13 internationals in the matchday 23, as Kieran Crowley can still put out a very experienced side even in the Six Nations period.
Player to watch
A consistent danger man over the last two years has been winger Monty Ioane, since the 26-year-old’s arrival from Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, having previously spent time at Stade Francais.
The winger has 18 tries in 46 games during his time in Italy, including seven in his first 11 Guinness Pro14 games, and although he only has two in seven this season, his explosive power and natural finishing ability make him a threat at all times.
What the coaches said
“We’ve had a very honest week as a group, and we’re desperate to put things right in front of our own crowd after last week’s disappointment. The whole group has been really focused on the task ahead this week, and that’s been clear to see from the work we’ve put in on the training ground.
“Benetton will be coming here looking from revenge after the reverse fixture earlier this season. We won at the death on that day, and it really showed the resilience and mental strength of this team to dig deep and get a result.
“We can take confidence from that match heading into this game, but we’re fully aware of the threats that Benetton pose. There’s a fantastic weekend of rugby ahead, and we’re really looking forward to celebrating our grassroots game by welcoming clubs from across the region down for what should be a great occasion.”
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill
Irishman Frank Murphy takes charge of Sunday’s game, his 32nd in the Guinness Pro14 and the ninth time he has been the referee for a Cardiff Blues game, with five wins and four losses coming from those.
His most recent games involving Cardiff Blues saw us lose to Scarlets and Edinburgh this season, while in 2019/20 as a whole he has taken charge of seven games, resulting in four away wins as well as five yellow cards and a red.