Anglo-Welsh Cup Final - Twickenham, April 18, 2009
Blues gunning for Anglo-Welsh title
April 17, 2009
Cardiff centre Jamie Roberts powers forward during his Man of the Match performance, Gloucester v Cardiff Blues, Heineken Cup, Kingsholm, Gloucester, England, January 18 2009
Blues centre Jamie Roberts starts as his side meets Gloucester for the third time this season © Getty Images

Cardiff Blues travel to Twickenham to face Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final on Saturday, with their first silverware since their formation in 2003 in sight.

After seeing off the challenge of Toulouse in last weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium the Blues will go in to the game full of confidence, having seen off the Cherry and Whites twice this season during the group stages of Europe's premier competition.

Blues boss Dai Young has selected an identical 22 to that which defeated Toulouse, meaning that fly-half Nick Robinson will be facing his future club, having agreed a switch to Kingsholm at the end of the season. Jamie Roberts and Tom Shanklin are the powerful Welsh international centre partnership while Leigh Halfpenny, Ben Blair and Tom James provide the firepower out wide.

Kiwi lock Paul Tito will lead the side as usual, with his countryman Xavier Rush continuing to keep Wales powerhouse Andy Powell on the bench. Rush starts in the back-row alongside Martyn Williams and Maama Molitika.

On the eve of the clash, Young praised his side for their recent achievement but urged them to remain focused for the Twickenham showdown. "It is testament to all the hard work put in by the players and the coaching team and the off field staff how much the team and region has grown over recent seasons," he said.

"We are thrilled to be in the semi-finals and enjoyed our day last Saturday but our feet are firmly on the ground. We haven't won anything yet and we are fully focused on the match against Gloucester. Although we have beaten them twice this season, we would be foolish to underestimate them. We have huge respect for them and know they are a better team than when we played them in the Heineken Cup."

Gloucester boss Dean Ryan will be expecting a far bigger performance against the Blues than the one that saw them lose against 14 men at Kingsholm in January. He has handed the captaincy to Welsh international Gareth Delve in the absence of Mike Tindall, while winger Iain Balshaw and flanker Alasdair Strokosch have both been ruled out through injury.

Rory Lawson starts at scrum-half, with Blues-bound Gareth Cooper on the bench, alongside Ryan Lamb and there is a big boost with the return of James Simpson-Daniel in the outside-centre jersey. Olly Morgan starts at fullback with Welshman Matthew Watkins and Mark Foster on the wing.

All Black legend Greg Somerville will go to-to-toe with Wales' Gethin Jenkins, and is joined in the front-row by Olivier Azam and Nick Wood. In the back-row, skipper Delve is joined by Akapusi Qera and England's Luke Narraway.

Head Coach Dean Ryan acknowledged that the Blues will probably be seen as favourites but that the Gloucester squad is in good spirits.

"The atmosphere in the camp is good. We've had a good week and enjoyed probably our first weekend off which has been crucial," he said. "We have been struggling with injuries recently. Every time we seem to get one back, we lose another one."

"So, we've not had a huge amount of continuity in team selection and I think that week off has given us an extra couple of days to look at Cardiff and a couple of extra recovery days. I don't think that gives us an edge but just makes you feel a little bit better. Cardiff themselves have been going well, they beat Toulouse so they'll be feeling pretty good about themselves."

"I think that Cardiff will be seen as favourites given their form against us and their progression into the latter stages of Europe. But we've been appearing in these types of finals for some time now and, apart from the European Challenge Cup, we've still to win a big one. It's what we aspire to do, we have to convert one of these finals into a win and there's no better opportunity than on Saturday."

Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Nicky Robinson, Jason Spice; Gethin Jenkins, Gareth Williams, Tauf'au Filise, Bradley Davies, Paul Tito (capt), Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush

Replacements: John Yapp, T Rhys Thomas, Deiniol Jones, Andy Powell, Richie Rees, Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Thomas.

Gloucester: Olly Morgan; Matthew Watkins, James Simpson-Daniel, Anthony Allen, Mark Foster; Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Greg Somerville; Alex Brown, Will James, Luke Narraway, Akapusi Qera, Gareth Delve (capt)

Replacements: Scott Lawson, Carlos Nieto, Marco Bortolami, Andrew Hazell, Gareth Cooper, Olly Barkley, Charlie Sharples

Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)


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