Heineken Cup place on the line for Scarlets
May 12, 2009
Ceri Sweeney starts at fly-half for Cardiff © Getty Images
The Scarlets travel to face Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park on Wednesday night, with their hopes of an automatic Heineken Cup place hanging in the balance. Nigel Davies' struggling side are wrangling with Newport Gwent Dragons for the remaining spot, with the team finishing lowest in the table facing a playoff against an Italian side to secure their progress.
Cardiff's win over Munster last weekend assured their placed in next season's Heineken Cup and Dai Young's team selection reflects the opportunity to rest some tired limbs and trial some younger players.
British and Irish Lions selections Jamie Roberts, who is nursing a shoulder injury, Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Andy Powell and Leigh Halfpenny are all given the night off with Robin Sowden-Taylor captaining the Blues from the openside. Ceri Sweeney and Richie Rees start at halfback, with Richard Mustoe and Chris Czekaj given the chance to celebrate their Wales call-ups with starts on the wing.
"The Scarlets are fighting for their lives with the Dragons to avoid the playoff match in Italy and I imagine they'll come here hoping that we'll roll over because the job is done for us," said Young. "We never want to lose any games at home and especially to our Welsh rivals and I expect it to be another hotly contested Welsh derby."
Scarlets boss Davies has also chosen to rest his Lions, with Stephen Jones and Matthew Rees both starting on the bench. Davies has however selected Wales squad members Dafydd Jones, Rob McCusker and Jon Davies. These players will have added drive to win in the capital, as their places on Wales' tour of North America also depend on their avoiding the playoff. The first Test against Canada is scheduled for the same day.
Rhys Priestland takes the fly-half jersey in place of Jones and starts alongside Gavin Cattle. Darren Daniel and Lee Williams start out wide, while Australian international David Lyons takes the captain's armband.
Blues: Ben Blair; Richard Mustoe, Jamie Robinson, Gareth Thomas, Chris Czekaj; Ceri Sweeney, Richie Rees; John Yapp, T Rhys Thomas, Faao Filise, Bradley Davies, Deiniol Jones, Ben White, Robin Sowden-Taylor (capt), Maama Molitika.
Replacements: Gary Powell, Ross Johnston, James Down, Scott Morgan, Darren Allinson, Dai Flanagan, Nicky Robinson.
Scarlets: Daniel Evans; Darren Daniel, Rob Higgitt, Jon Davies, Lee Williams; Rhys Priestland, Gavin Cattle; Phil John, Ken Owens, Deacon Manu, Lou Reed, Dominic Day, Dafydd Jones, Rob McCusker, David Lyons (capt).
Replacements: Iestyn Thomas, Matthew Rees, Aaron Shingler, Simon Easterby, Martin Roberts, Stephen Jones, Ceiron Thomas.
Referee: James Jones (WRU)