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Cardiff Blues v Pau | European Rugby Challenge Cup | Saturday 7th December 2019

Form

Cardiff Blues: LWWLW

Pau: WLLWL

An up-and-down season has seen the French side start well, lose three in a row, and then bounce back with two wins leaving them ninth in the Top14, but only three points off third.

In the Challenge Cup a much changes side lost 41-20 away at Leicester in round one, before a 61-10 demolition of Calvisano as the Stade Hameau saw them take five points and sit third, a point behind Cardiff Blues.

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

We have a 100% record from the three games we have played against the French team so far, having drawn them in the pool stages and earned victories home and away during the 2016/17 Challenge Cup campaign.

Of course the most memorable encounter is the most recent game though, which saw Cardiff Blues beat Pau in the semi-final of the 2017/18 Challenge Cup at the Arms Park, before going on to lift the trophy for a second time in Bilbao.

Team news

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

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, Macauley Cook, Alun Lawrence, Lloyd Williams, Jason Tovey, Hallam Amos

Cardiff Blues are able to welcome back a number of players who featured for Wales against the Barbarians last week, with Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans at half-back, Owen Lane on the right wing and Josh Adams making his debut on the left wing. Unfortunately Dillon Lewis (hamstring) and Seb Davies (knee) picked up injuries in that game.

Also returning is Olly Robinson after a shoulder injury, while Ben Thomas makes his full debut alongside Rey Lee-Lo who plays his 100th game. Elsewhere there are starts for Rhys Gill and Shane Lewis-Hughes, while Will Boyde captains the side for the first time.

Pau: Charly Malie, Bastien Purailly, Pierre Nueno, Florient Nicot, Atile Septar, Tom Taylor, Clovis Le Bail; Geoffrey Moise, Lucas Rey (c), Lourens Adriaanse, Julien Delannoy, Denis Marchois, Baptiste Pesenti, Giovanni Habel-Kuffner, Antoine Erbani

Replacements: Rayne Barka, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Mohamed Boghanmi, Jean-Marc Souverbie, Daniel Ramsay, Samuel Marques, Thibault Debaes, Vincent Pinto

There are 11 changes to the Pau starting XV that lost to Toulon in the Top14 last week as they once again use their squad depth for the Challenge Cup. Only Charly Malie, Florient Nicot, Lourens Adriaanse and Baptiste Pesenti survive.

Pau still have international quality though as Adriaanse has Springbok caps and Tom Taylor is former All Black, while on the bench Mohamed Boghanmi is a France cap and Siegfried Fisi'ihoi is a Tongan international.

Player to watch

Spanish international full-back Charly Malie may sound like a Welsh language children's character but is one of the longest serving players in the Pau team, having been there for five years and making over 100 appearances.

Dependable in defence with a good footballing game, his main attribute is that of being a rangy runner who will punish loose kicking especially on the fast surface of the Arms Park.

What the coach said

“It is great to have some of our Wales internationals back this week, particularly Tomos Williams and Josh Adams, who make their first appearances of the season. Josh enjoyed a brilliant World Cup and we are looking forward to seeing him continue that form in a blue jersey. They have all come in with a spring in their step and brought further confidence to the group.

“For Rey it is a well-deserved milestone. He is one of the very best centres in the competition, is always one of our best performers and a real leader on the pitch. We are delighted for Rey and his family and hope we can cap his 100th game with a win.”

“It is great to be back at the Arms Park and following a superb result last weekend we have a bit of confidence in the group. The Wales boys returning have added to that and we are looking forward to getting out at CAP and giving a good account of ourselves.

“Will Boyde, who has been one of our signings of the season, leads us and we are all acutely aware of the importance of winning. If we can get over the line on Saturday, we put ourselves right back in the frame and can travel to France with momentum before switching attention to a busy period of Welsh derbies.”

John Mulvihill, Cardiff Blues Head Coach

The referee

Italian Andrea Piardi is one of the youngest and most inexperienced referees on the circuit at the moment.

With just three Guinness Pro14 and one European Challenge Cup game to his name this the 27-year-old’s first visit to the Arms Park, having previously taken charge of Munster v Kings, Ospreys v Kings, Leinster v Dragons and Enisei v Worcester.

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