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Leicester Tigers v Cardiff Blues | European Rugby Challenge Cup | Sunday 12th January 2020

Form

Leicester Tigers: WWLDW

Cardiff Blues: WLWWL

Two strong festive periods for both sides see them come into this game with a bit of confidence about them. Cardiff Blues of course beat Ospreys and Dragons before narrowly losing to Scarlets.

Leicester, meanwhile, pushed Exeter all the way before drawing with Harlequins at the ‘Big Game’ at Twickenham and then beat Bristol at home last weekend.

Head-to-head

Leicester Tigers 42-20 Cardiff Blues – 03/11/2007 (Anglo-Welsh Cup)

Cardiff Blues 23-9 Leicester Tigers – 25/10/2008 (Anglo-Welsh Cup)

Cardiff Blues 26-26 Leicester Tigers – 03/05/2009 (Heineken Cup)

Cardiff Blues 9-43 Leicester Tigers – 07/02/2015 (Anglo-Welsh Cup)

Cardiff Blues 11-14 Leicester Tigers – 23/11/2019 (Challenge Cup)

The last-minute loss at the Arms Park back in November means that Cardiff Blues have still never beaten Leicester in a European clash. Our last visit to Welford Road outside of the Anglo-Welsh Cup was a 34-0 hammering back in January 2007, not good!

Team news

Leicester Tigers: Telusa Veainu, Jordan Olowofela, George Worth, Kyle Eastmond, Rory Hughes, George Ford, Ben White; Greg Bateman, Tom Youngs (c), Joe Heyes, Joe Batley, Harry Wells, Sam Lewis, Tommy Reffell, Jordan Coghlan

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ellis Genge, Nephi Leatigaga, Will Spencer, Ifereimi Boladau, Harry Simmons, Noel Reid, Adam Thompstone

There are nine changes to the Leicester Tigers side that beat Bristol last week, with the majority coming up front where only captain Tom Youngs and Harry Wells remain. In come the Welsh-qualified Greg Bateman and Joe Heyes at prop, while former Wales U20 captain Tommy Reffell starts at openside flanker.

In the backs the experience of George Ford, Kyle Eastmond and Telusa Veainu remain, and they are joined by new signing Rory Hughes and George Worth, a full-back playing out of position at outside centre.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Jason Harries, Josh Adams, Rey Lee-Lo, Hallam Amos, Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Josh Navidi (c), Seb Davies

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Brad Thyer, Dmitri Arhip, James Ratti, Will Boyde, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Ben Thomas

John Mulvihill has sprung a few surprises in his team selection as he makes eight changes to the starting XV, with the good news being that Corey Domachowski and Dillon Lewis are fit to start together for the first time this season, while Dmitri Arhip returns to action from the bench and Shane Lewis-Hughes is back at blindside.

Elsewhere though Seb Davies wears the number eight jersey once again, while Lloyd Williams and Jason Tovey form a new half-back pairing. Rey Lee-Lo is moved to 12 as Josh Adams wears the 13 jersey for the first time ever, and Jason Harries and Matthew Morgan join the back three with no sign of Nick Williams, Jarrod Evans or Owen Lane.

Player to watch

Former England U20 winger Jordan Olowofela is a talent to keep an eye on as he continues his return from injury this weekend against Cardiff Blues.

He scored five tries in four games at the World Rugby U20 Championship in the summer of 2018 and has been invited to train with the senior England squad, with his rangy and powerful frame catching the eye.

What the coaches said

“We’ve had some good results in this tournament but nothing is decided in the pool yet and we’re going into a tough part of the season with two games in Europe and then the Six Nations period. We’ve given opportunities to players to play in this tournament and they’ve done a good job.

“There was some criticism of the team away to Calvisano but I was pleased we got a win there in a tricky game and we had a young side who did us proud away to Cardiff. It gives me the faith we can pick guys and they will stand up and take opportunities.”

Leicester Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy

“We travel to Welford Road with a pretty exciting team, and a lot of boys will be going out there with a point to prove. We’ve had a fairly settled side over the festive derbies, so this is an opportunity for those coming in to put their hands up, and it will be a good challenge against a competitive Leicester side.

“We’re delighted to welcome Dillon and Dmitri back into the matchday squad. Bubba [Scott Andrews] and Keiron Assiratti have stepped up really well in their absence, but we need a competitive depth of players in all positions as we head into the second half of the season.

“Josh will have a run-out at 13, and he’ll give us a different option in that position. He has slotted in well in that position during training, and is on a good run of form so I’m looking forward to see what he can offer.

“We’ve made some big improvements in recent weeks and we’re looking forward to the contest this week. It’s a must-win for us and heading into these two weeks in Europe, a lot of teams sit on similar amount of points.

“As I said, it’s a must-win for us and hopefully we can qualify for the quarter final in the final round of the pool stage. You can probably read too much into what other teams can do and the permutations heading into these fames.

“The basic for us is that if we win both games then we’ll qualify. We must win this week and then Calvisano will take care of itself as it will be a massive game to play for and the boys will be up for it.

“Leicester have been really good over the last two weeks. When you bring the quality of their international players back into the side, and they get a run to play together of a long period of time, you’ll get some good results.”

Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill

The referee

Irishman George Clancy is a familiar face for Cardiff Blues fans, with the 42-year-old having refereed us a number of times down the years as part of 122 Guinness Pro14 games and 85 European games.

He has also visited Welford Road in each of the last two seasons, resulting in a loss to Racing 92 and a win over Castres. So far this season he has taken charge of eight games in all competitions, with six home wins coming from them alongside six yellow cards and a solitary red.

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