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The big Welsh double derby weekend in the Guinness PRO14 kicks off on Friday evening in the East with a crucial encounter in the capital for both Cardiff Blues and the Dragons.

Cardiff Blues return home to the Arms Park after spending the last two weeks on the road and will host a Dragons team boosted by a victory at Rodney Parade last weekend over South Africans Southern Kings.

With a buzzing derby night in store (KO 7.35pm), it’s set to be another intense affair between the two pro rugby teams in the East of Wales.

Cardiff Blues need to kick-start their campaign with a fifth straight competitive victory over their East Wales rivals following a tricky start to the season. The Dragons will be looking to end the Blues winning derby tally over them and build on their two wins at home in Wales in their last three games.

PRO14 games are averaging 5.5 tries per game this season and bonus points are up from last season too – so with a dry bright October night in store and derby tickets selling fast, the crowds at Cardiff Arms Park will be hoping for another entertaining derby fixture.

And the man in the middle for the first Welsh derby of the season will be referee Nigel Owens (WRU).

CARDIFF BLUES

Cardiff Blues have made seven changes for their first derby game of the season. Returning scrum half, Lloyd Williams, has been named captain for the clash, and he links-up with Jarrod Evans at half-back, who keeps his place following his 11-point haul last week.

Rey Lee-Lo, who was rested for the trip to Thomond Park, replaces the injured Jack Roberts at outside centre while Alex Cuthbert returns to the wing. Kristian Dacey is the only change in the front row, but there is a complete overhaul at lock, with Seb Davies and Damian Welch returning to replace George Earle and James Down.

There’s just a single change in the back row, as Josh Navidi comes in at blindside in place of Josh Turnbull, with Olly Robinson and Nick Williams retained at the openside and number eight respectively.

Head coach Danny Wilson is expecting a typically feisty affair between the rival sides and insists his side will have to be at their best to come out on top against a gritty and determined Dragons side. “I fully respect what they’ve been doing there but we focus on ourselves,” said Wilson.

“We’ve got a reasonably good record against them so far but we know exactly what it’s going to take to beat a gritty Dragons side at home, and we’re under no illusions. It’s a Welsh derby. It’s got enough edge and spice to it, as they always have, and I’m sure it will be an excellent game on Friday night.

“I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve performed. They’ve picked up two good wins at home, are playing some good rugby and there are some young players that have come through and started to become established players at the Dragons.

“It’s happened right through Lyn’s time there, Kingsley’s time and there are some good players coming through and they’re playing some decent rugby.”

And Cardiff Blues no8 Nick Williams has vowed to do his talking on the pitch as Cardiff Blues prepare to host the Dragons in the first Guinness PRO14 Welsh derby of the season.  He said: “I am ready for a big battle. We all know derbies are about physicality.

“It’s why we travel half way across the world and leave our loved ones is to play in big games and Friday night is going to be no different. If you were them, you would think we are prime targets. They will be gunning for us.

“They will be disappointed we got the double over them last year. They weren’t our most convincing win but a win is a win, especially in a derby and we will be looking to do the same again this year.

“But I am a big believer in saving my chat for the action on the weekend.”

Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Tom James; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams (C); Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Taufa’ao Filise, Seb Davies, Damian Welch, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams

Replacements: Matthew Rees, Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, George Earle, Josh Turnbull, Tomos Williams, Steven Shingler, Matthew Morgan

DRAGONS

Despite 29-injuries to the Dragons senior and academy squads, Head Coach Bernard Jackman has only made one personnel change and one positional change to last weekend’s winning team.

Welsh International Hallam Amos, who crossed for two tries last weekend, moves into the fullback position from the wing. Ashton Hewitt remains in position and Jared Rosser, who makes his first start for the region, covers the opposite wing. The centre partnership sees youngsters Tyler Morgan and Jack Dixon get the nod, with the half-backs also remaining unchanged with Gavin Henson and scrum-half Sarel Pretorius retaining their positions.

Last weekend’s man of the match Elliot Dee remains in the starting XV; he is joined in the front row by props Brok Harris and Leon Brown. Matthew Screech and skipper Cory Hill make up the second row whilst James Thomas, Ollie Griffiths and James Benjamin retain their places in the back row.

The replacements bench sees the inclusion of Liam Belcher, who is set to make his Dragons debut and his PRO14 debut, as well as the return of Owain Leonard who has been out injured. Luke Garrett, Lloyd Fairborther, Joe Davies, Aaron Wainwirght, Angus O’Brien and Will Talbot-Davies make up the rest of the replacements bench.

Dragons team to face Cardiff Blues: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Sarel Pretorius; 1 Brok Harris, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Leon Brown, 4 Matthew Screech, 5 Cory Hill ©, 6 James Thomas, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 8 James Benjamin.

Replacements; Liam Belcher, Luke Garrett, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Aaron Wainwright, Owain Leonard, Angus O’Brien, Will Talbot-Davies.