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While Wales’ World Cup squad get a well-deserved break from action this weekend, their colleagues in the four pro teams in Wales return to action in round three of the Guinness PRO12.

The Ospreys kick off the action on Friday evening away in Edinburgh (KO 6pm) while games on Saturday are both Irish v Welsh encounters as Connacht welcome Cardiff Blues to the Sportsground in Galway, whilst the RDS Arena sees Leinster take on Newport Gwent Dragons. The round wraps up in Italy on Sunday, with league leaders Scarlets hoping to extend their winning opening to the season at the expense of Zebre.

OSPREYS

The Ospreys will be looking to get their first win of the new season while Edinburgh are one of just three teams who have won both of their opening encounters in the Guinness PRO12 this season. The last six encounters between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day.

Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy said: “It’s good to get back into action, with something to target at the end of a hard training week. Going up to Edinburgh is always a challenge, as we’ve seen for ourselves during international windows before, and it won’t be any different on Friday with the heavy investment that Edinburgh and the SRU have made in an experienced, overseas core to the squad that gives them the strength in depth to cope with a World Cup period.

“We improved game on game in the opening two rounds of the PRO12 but we are well aware that we still need to raise it several levels again to get to where we need it to be. It may be a young group at the moment but there are still the same internal expectations on these boys to perform to the Ospreys standard as there is on the likes of Alun Wyn, James King or Dan Lydiate. It’s a great opportunity for someone who is hungry to show what they can do at this level and, as coaches, we are learning a lot about this squad, and the next generation of Ospreys, how they cope with the unique pressure, are they clinical, is there attention to detail in what they do, do they know their roles? Those are the factors that will drive a positive performance on Friday.”

Ospreys team to play Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Friday 2nd October 2015, KO 6.00pm, is as follows: 15 Dan Evans 14 Hanno Dirksen 13 Jonathan Spratt 12 Ben John 11 Dafydd Howells 10 Sam Davies 9 Brendon Leonard 1 Nicky Smith 2 Sam Parry 3 Dmitri Arhip 4 Lloyd Ashley (Capt) 5 Rory Thornton 6 Joe Bearman 7 Sam Underhill 8 Dan Baker

Replacements: 16 Scott Otten 17 Ryan Bevington 18 Cai Griffiths 19 Rynier Bernard 20 Olly Cracknell 21 Ifereimi Boladau 22 Tom Habberfield 23 Aled Jenkins

CARDIFF BLUES

Cardiff Blues have opened their Guinness PRO12 campaign with an eleven try demolition of Zebre in round 1 but then slipped up to Leinster in Dublin the following week. Wing Richard Smith makes his first appearance of the season as Cardiff Blues head to Galway and The Sportsground to tackle Connacht Rugby on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 5pm).

Fit-again Smith is one of three changes made to the starting line-up that faced Leinster by Head Coach Danny Wilson as Cardiff Blues look to return to winning ways in league action. Lock Lou Reed will also start his first game of the campaign as he joins forces with Jarrad Hoeata in the second row.

The final change comes in the back row where Ellis Jenkins is handed the No.7 openside flanker jersey. Captain Josh Navidi moves to blindside and Josh Turnbull operates at Number Eight.

Hooker Matthew Rees could make his first appearance of the season from the bench and he is joined among the replacements by highly-rated Wales Under-20 prop Dillon Lewis.

The fixture is the second part of four successive games in Ireland for Cardiff Blues and Wilson insists his players are eager for a return to playing action after a two-week period without action.

Wilson said:  “We go to a very tough venue and very tough opposition in Connacht to try and get a win. The boys are motivated and excited about the trip. Connacht are a good side who are well coached by Pat Lam and well-organised; at home they are a very hard side to beat. They are a passionate side at home and are proud of their home venue – it’s a difficult away fixture for us in the middle of four difficult away fixtures in Ireland.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Richard Smith, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle; 1 Sam Hobbs, 2 Kristian Dacey, 3 Craig Mitchell, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Lou Reed, 6 Josh Navidi (c), 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 Josh Turnbull

Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 James Down, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Garyn Smith

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS

Newport Gwent Dragons began the new season by gaining a losing bonus point in Connacht then achieving a 13-0 victory over Zebre at Rodney Parade in Round 2 and now face Leinster on Saturday 3rd October KO 2.30pm having achieved their first ever season’s double over the Leinstermen last year.

Second row Rynard Landman will take on the role of skipper for the Newport Gwent Dragons. He said of last time they came up against Leinster: “Nick Crosswell got a yellow card in the first few minutes and I thought ‘oh no, we can’t play with 14 men against them!’

“But we turned things around, our kicking game was great, we left nothing on the pitch, and got the ‘W’.

“They won’t underestimate us this time but I think that was the same when they came to Rodney Parade with an even better side than in Dublin and we won again (25-22).

“We know it will be a tough game and they will have a strong side even though they are affected by World Cup call-ups. They’ve got depth and a big budget but last season gives us confidence.”

Full back Carl Meyer joins wings Ashton Hewitt and Tom Prydie in the back three. The centre pairing sees Ross Wardle and Adam Warren retain their positions. Fly-half Jason Tovey also keeps his place as well as Sarel Pretorius as scrum-half.

The front row has one change made to it as hooker Hugh Gustafson joins props Boris Stankovich and Brok Harris. The second row also has one change made to it as Nick Crosswell joins skipper Rynard Landman. The back row has two changes made to it as James Thomas and James Benjamin join number 8 Ed Jackson.

 

Dragons team: Carl Meyer, Ashton Hewitt, Ross Wardle, Adam Warren, Tom Prydie, Jason Tovey, Sarel Pretorius; Boris Stankovich, Hugh Gustafson, Brok Harris, Nick Crosswell, Rynard Landman ©, James Thomas, James Benjamin, Ed Jackson.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Phil Price, Shaun Knight, Matthew Screech, Nic Cudd, Luc Jones, Angus O’Brien, Aled Brew.

SCARLETS

Victories in the opening rounds of the 2015-16 campaign sees Scarlets head to Parma (KO 1pm UK time) at the top of the Guinness PRO12 table looking for another historic victory this weekend.

Scarlets’ victory over Glasgow in the opening round saw the Scottish side’s 20-game home win record come to an end with a home victory over Ulster in the second round equaling Scarlets’ best ever run in the competition.

John Barclay will lead the side in his 150th Guinness PRO12 appearance with two personnel changes in the pack. Rob Evans replaces Phil John in the starting line-up with George Earle coming in to the second row for Lewis Rawlins.

Llanelli born Jordan Williams returns to the side replacing the injured Steff Evans at fullback; this will be Williams’ first regional game since March following shoulder surgery. Michael Tagicakibau and Rhodri Williams are also named in the starting XV having recovered from a hamstring injury and concussion respectively.

Scarlets Head Coach Wayne Pivac said: “This is a one off game over in Zebre before another week off. Last season we won it in the last play of the game and the season before it was a last minute penalty to take the draw. We know it’s not going to be easy and they’ve improved from round one to round two.

“We expect them to be stronger at home. We’ll show them a lot of respect, we’ll go out there and try and build on what we’ve created in the camp over the last month. It’s an important game for us. If we can get a win on the weekend we head back to the Parc for three home games and we’d like to think at that point the public will be right behind the side and we can draw some big crowds.”

Scarlets team: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Regan King, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Daniel Jones, 9 Rhodri Williams, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Peter Edwards, 4 George Earle, 5 Tom Price, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay  (Capt)

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Phil John, Will Taylor, Tom Phillips, Jack Condy, Aled Davies, Steven Shingler, Aled Thomas