Cardiff Blues v Dragons | Guinness Pro14 | Thursday 26th December 2019
Cardiff Blues: LWWLW
A win over the Scarlets at Rodney Parade on Saturday put an end to a three-game losing streak in the Guinness Pro14 for the Dragons, but it’s still been a successful start to the season under Dean Ryan.
Three wins from four in the European Challenge Cup see them sitting top of their pool while fifth in the league’s Conference A is a respectable position at Christmas.
Dragons 24-26 Cardiff Blues – 06/05/2017
Cardiff Blues 43-29 Dragons – 06/10/2017
Dragons 17-22 Cardiff Blues – 26/12/2017
Dragons 15-23 Cardiff Blues – 06/10/2018
Cardiff Blues 19-16 Dragons – 21/12/2018
The winning streak for Cardiff Blues in this fixture currently stands at nine with someone having to go back to Boxing Day 2014 for the last time Dragons got a win, that coming at the Arms Park when Elliot Dee and a penalty try, as well as the boot of Tom Prydie, secured a 17-23 win.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Brad Thyer, Liam Belcher, Keiron Assiratti, James Ratti, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Josh Navidi (c)
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Seb Davies, Will Boyde, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Matthew Morgan
Five changes for Cardiff Blues as John Mulvihill is forced into one by injury, with Kirby Myhill picking up an ankle knock and Liam Belcher starting, while an injury returnee sees Josh Navidi start at number eight with Josh Turnbull moving up to second row and Filo Paulo dropping out.
Tactical switches see Keiron Assiratti start at tighthead with Scott Andrews dropping to the bench, Olly Robinson is preferred to Will Boyde at openside and Hallam Amos gets the nod against his former team at full-back swapping with Matthew Morgan.
Dragons: Will Talbot-Davies, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon, Ashton Hewitt, Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (c); Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis, Matthew Screech, Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Taine Basham, Ross Moriarty
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Josh Reynolds, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Harrison Keddie, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Adam Warren
There are also five changes to the Dragons side with Dean Ryan opting for the experience of Richard Hibbard and Aaron Jarvis up front, while the return of Ross Moriarty allows Cory Hill to move back up to the second row.
In the backs there is a recall for Tyler Morgan, while Jared Rosser returns from injury to start on the wing. Wales internationals Elliot Dee and Leon Brown prepare to make an impact off the bench.
Player to watch
A lot of the focus pre-game has been on the battle between Sam Davies and Jarrod Evans at fly-half, especially with the number of Welsh injuries in that position currently, but actually the battle of the back rows is the key area.
Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty are the names that jump out, but Taine Basham has exploded onto the scene this season and Cardiff Blues will have to be careful not to place all resources on nullifying his more experienced back-row colleagues leaving the 20-year-old free to cause havoc.
What the coaches said
“We’re at home, and it’s going to be a massive crowd. It will be a big crowd here and the place will be bouncing. We play a good style of rugby and we’ll get the crowd into the game as well. They always step up to play against the Blues and both teams from the east had victories this week, so it will be a battle for who can get the bragging rights on Boxing Day.
“It will be fantastic to be around and there’s no better place to be than Cardiff Arms Park when the place is packed and the rugby is good. Any game here is special, but it will be brilliant to see the fans coming out for Boxing Day. It will spur us on and we can play that exciting brand of rugby that people want to see
“It’s been good to have Navs around the group after his triumphs at the World Cup and how well he played out in Japan. Some of the boys in his position will be able to feed off that so it’s good to have him back.”
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill
“Cardiff Blues will be full of confidence after the win over Ospreys and keen to reproduce that back on home soil. They are a team with a lot of threat in the back line and that is what does the damage to you off set pieces.
“There are still lots of areas where we can get better and we must use the experience against Scarlets to continue to improve. It's a fast track in Cardiff and that's something that we've looked at with our selection, as we have freshened things up and looked to add energy.”
Dragons Director of Rugby Dean Ryan
One of the most recognisable figures in Welsh rugby, Nigel Owens will take charge of this Boxing Day clash as he continues to referee despite rumours of his retirement after the recent Rugby World Cup.
Cardiff Blues have lost four of the last five games that Owens has officiated, but have won the last four times that Owens has taken charge of this fixture.