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Pau v Cardiff Blues | European Rugby Challenge Cup | Friday 13th December 2019

Form

Pau: LLWLL

Cardiff Blues: WWLWW

After last week’s result the teams now have opposing records, with Pau looking at just one win in their last five games, while Cardiff Blues have four wins in the same time, our best spell of form this season.

Head-to-head

Cardiff Blues 27-12 Pau – 21/10/2016

Pau 21-22 Cardiff Blues – 14/01/2017

Cardiff Blues 16-10 Pau – 21/04/2018

Cardiff Blues 54-22 Pau – 07/12/2019

John Mulvihill’s men kept up the 100% record held over Pau with last week’s bonus point win, although only one of the games has come out in the Stade du Hameau, and that was a last gasp victory in 2017.

Team news

Pau: Ben Smith, Bastien Pourailly, Pierre Nueno, Atile Septar, Julien Fumat, Tom Taylor, Thibault Daubagna; Geoffrey Moise, Quentin Lespiaucq (c), Mohamed Boughanmi, Baptiste Pesenti, Denis Marchois, Antoine Erbani, Giovanni Habel-Kuffner, Luke Whitelock

Replacements: Rayne Barka, Lucas Pointud, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Fabrice Metz, Martin Puech, Clovis Le Bail, Thibault Debaes, Vincent Pinto

It’s a noticeably stronger Pau this week, even if it isn’t quite the full strength side that they pick in the Top14, with eight changes to the side that started at the Arms Park last week.

Quention Lespiaucq captains the side at hooker while French capped Mohamed Boughanmi returns at tighthead, while Luke Whitelock makes his debut for the club at number eight.

Thibault Daubagna is in at scrum-half, Julien Fumat starts on the wing and there’s another debutant in Ben Smith at full-back. On the bench, French capped Lucas Pointud and Fabrice Metz cover loosehead prop and second row respectively, while Martin Puech is the back row replacement.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, Scott Andrews, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Will Boyde (c)

Replacements: Liam Belcher, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, James Ratti, Alun Lawrence, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Hallam Amos

Whereas Pau ring the changes there is just the two alterations to the entire matchday 23 for John Mulvihill.

Filo Paulo makes his second debut at second row, with James Ratti dropping to the bench and Macauley Cook missing out, while Liam Belcher returns to cover hooker with Ethan Lewis missing out.

Player to watch

There’s nobody else you can pick out really, is there? 84-cap All Black Ben Smith makes his debut for Pau on Friday night having retired from international rugby with a hat-trick against Wales in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off.

At one time the best player in the world, Smith is 33 now but still a high class operator and will cause Cardiff Blues problem if we kick loosely or give him space in attack.

What the coach said

“It’s probably the first time this season that we’ve been able to select virtually the same team from one week to the next, which is really pleasing.

We have been impressed with James but it was important that we get Filo on the pitch for a run out ahead of the derbies. He will bring a lot of physicality against a big French pack while we will be looking for James to make an impact from the bench.

“We had a great win and performance last weekend, but we are well aware that Pau will be a different team on their home patch, and they will be a lot closer to full strength. However, we have won four of our last five so we have some momentum and if we play with the same intensity as last week then we will have every chance of winning.

“A win will give us a really good chance to qualify for the quarter-finals, and that was one of our targets at the beginning of the season and set us up nicely for a busy period of Christmas derbies.”

John Mulvihill, Cardiff Blues Head Coach

The referee

Friday’s referee Tom Foley actually comes from South Wales originally but has spent his entire refereeing career in England after picking up the whistle while at Bristol University.

He has refereed Cardiff Blues in two previous competitive matches, both of which we won away from home, against Wasps in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2015 and against Toulouse in the European Challenge Cup in 2017.

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