by Dylan James
Guinness Pro14 – Cardiff Blues v Scarlets
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Date: Saturday January 9th
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
SCARLETS approach this fixture looking to make it three out of three against their compatriot regions, as the Cardiff Blues seek revenge following their last encounter against the West Walians.
There is a refreshed front row for the Scarlets as South African prop Pieter Scholtz makes his first start with Phil Price and Marc Jones.
The Scarlets make ten changes from their New Year’s Day win over Dragons, and are still without injured trio James Davies, Aaron Shingler and Rhys Patchell.
Blues tight-head Dmitri Arhip makes his 100th Guinness Pro14 appearance in what will be his ninth year in the competition, having played for Ospreys and the Blues since 2012.
Willis Halaholo returns to the starting 15 after the news broke that Garyn Smith would be out for up to five months. Matthew Morgan slots in at full-back whilst Hallam Amos shifts over to the wing.
Following John Mulvihill’s exit in the week, defence coach Richard Hodges assumes control of the squad.
After missing out the loss against Ospreys last week, Blues international trio Jarrod Evans, Cory Hill and James Botham start the game.
The Scarlets will be on a high after enjoying a successful Christmas period both in the Champions Cup and Pro14, so they will definitely descend on the capital all guns blazing. However, with the return of some key players, especially Willis Halaholo, the Blues will be confident they can get their revenge on the Scarlets after losing 32-12 in August. My verdict – Scarlets by five.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Josh Adams, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Hallam Amos; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, James Ratti, Cory Hill (capt), Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Josh Turnbull.
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Alun Lawrence, Lloyd Williams, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies (capt), Johnny Williams, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Phil Price, Marc Jones, Pieter Scholtz, Tevita Ratuva, Sam Lousi, Blade Thomson, Josh Macleod, Sione Kalamafoni.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Kemsley Mathias, Javan Sebastian, Josh Helps, Ed Kennedy, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costelow, Paul Asquith.
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)