Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Another BIG double derby weekend awaits rugby supporters in Wales with the Scarlets hosting the Dragons on Friday evening (Fri 5th Jan kick off 7.35pm) followed by Ospreys v Cardiff Blues at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon (Sat 6th Jan kick off 3.15pm).

The four festive derbies once again sparked plenty of interest and engagement from rugby supporters – with more than 40,000 supporters at the Welsh grounds over a week of festive rugby, with three sell-out crowds and TV broadcast audiences of more than 650,000.

The spirit of festive rugby was alive across the Guinness PRO14 with a total attendance of 148,236 across rounds 11 and 12 which sees Championship attendances up 9.8% on last season.

The four professional teams are hoping Round 13 is lucky for them, as it brings with it more Welsh derbies, including the intriguing clash between Scarlets and Dragons to kick things off on Friday night in West Wales.

SCARLETS V DRAGONS

Wayne Pivac’s Scarlets are in excellent form and won their two festive derby contests against the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues to stay at the top of Conference B.  The Dragons will provide plenty of muscle in this contest having performed well in their past two derbies, despite losses to Ospreys and Cardiff Blues.

The Scarlets may be flying high but are just two points ahead of second-placed Leinster and will not want to slip up at home. Dragons, meanwhile, are sixth in Conference B and will be keen to close the gap to fifth-placed Benetton Rugby.

Tighthead prop Samson Lee returns to action for the Scarlets this Friday in the Welsh derby clash against Dragons Rugby at Parc y Scarlets. Lee’s last appearance came in the European Rugby Champions Cup clash against Bath Rugby in October and is one of eleven personnel changes to the Scarlets side that secured victory over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park on New Year’s Eve.

Head Coach Wayne Pivac has made thirteen changes to the side, two of which are positional, and Lee is one-third of a fresh front row for the derby clash with Rob Evans and Ken Owens also making a return to the starting XV.

Australian Steve Cummins and South African David Bulbring pair up in the second row with Aaron Shingler and John Barclay returning to the starting line-up alongside Sunday’s man of the match James Davies.

In the backline injuries have forced a reshuffle with Rhys Patchell moving to fullback with injuries to both Johnny Mcnicholl (shoulder) and Leigh Halfpenny (pec). Tom Prydie keeps his place on the wing with Ioan Nicholas coming in for Paul Asquith who’s unavailable due to illness.

Hadleigh Parkes moves to inside centre with Steff Hughes coming in at outside centre. Aled Davies is named at scrum half with Dan Jones taking up the fly half mantle. The replacements bench two internationals in Ryan Elias and Wyn Jones with Simon Gardiner offering tighthead cover. Lewis Rawlins returns from a foot injury to partner Will Boyde as loose forward cover.

Scrum half Jonathan Evans makes a return to action after suffering a high ankle sprain in the victory over Southern Kings in South Africa back in November alongside Rhys Jones and Morgan Williams.

Speaking ahead of the Guinness PRO14 clash head coach Wayne Pivac said; “These derbies have been tight affairs. We’ll be focusing on ourselves. It’s another derby and we’ve seen over the last two matches how tight they can be. That game will no doubt be another exciting game.

“We’ve done the double over the Ospreys and the Blues and the Dragons are the last Welsh team for us to play, it’ll be the first time we play them this season. It’s important for us to keep winning at home.”

Scarlets team to take on Dragons at Friday 5th January, kick-off 7.35pm, at Parc y Scarlets; 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Ioan Nicholas, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Aled Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens ©, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Steve Cummins, 5 David Bulbring, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements; Ryan Elias, Wyn Jones, Simon Gardiner, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Jonathan Evans, Rhys Jones, Morgan Williams

Dragons Head Coach Bernard Jackman has made six changes to his starting team that travel to West Wales to take on Guinness PRO14 champions Scarlets.

Just one change has been made to the backs, as wing Pat Howard replaces Ashton Hewitt, who suffered a neck strain last weekend, whilst five changes have been made to the forwards. The front row is all change as loosehead prop Luke Garrett gets the nod alongside hooker Liam Belcher and tighthead prop Nicky Thomas, who takes on his original team whilst on loan with the Dragons.

Lock Joe Davies returns to the starting XV after completing his return to play protocol, joining Dragons skipper Cory Hill in the second row. The back row also has one change to it as young flanker Taine Basham gets the nod making his debut for the Dragons and in the Guinness PRO14; Aaron Wainwright and James Benjamin make up the rest of the back row.

Looking ahead to the Scarlets clash, Jackman commented: “Scarlets are just so confident at the moment, they just find a way to win. I haven’t seen their game against the Blues but I have seen the result and they just seem to be able to win those tight games. They are a team which is high in confidence and we have to freshen up and go there and be prepared to fend for our lives.”

Dragons team to face Scarlets: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Pat Howard, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Arwel Robson, 9 Dan Babos; 1 Luke Garrett, 2 Liam Belcher, 3 Nicky Thomas, 4 Joe Davies, 5 Cory Hill ©, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 8 James Benjamin.

Replacements; Ellis Shipp, Thomas Davies, Lloyd Fairbrother, Rynard Landman, Robson Blake, Sarel Pretorius, Angus O’Brien, Jarryd Sage

OSPREYS V CARDIFF BLUES

In the 6th Welsh derby in just 12 days, the Ospreys welcome the Cardiff Blues to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Ospreys downed the Dragons last time out while the Blues came up just short against defending champions Scarlets.

There’s plenty riding on this derby too. The Ospreys can still make up ground to get into the Champions Cup Play-Off position in Conference A. The Blues will be keen to qualify automatically and their current hold on fourth place would be enough to make it into the Champions Cup if the Cheetahs (ineligible) finish above them.

Ospreys’ victory at Dragons on New Year’s Eve ended a four-game losing run in the Guinness PRO14 with Cardiff Blues’ record in the last ten rounds of the Guinness PRO14 is an even won five, lost five.

The Cardiff Blues only previous victory at Liberty Stadium in the Championship was on their very first visit in December 2005; however the Blues won their most recent fixture against Ospreys 35-17 at Principality Stadium on Judgement Day V in April to end an eleven game losing run to Ospreys in the Guinness PRO14.

Ospreys team to play Cardiff Blues: 15 Sam Davies; 14 Dan Evans; 13 Ashley Beck; 12 Owen Watkin; 11 Jeff Hassler; 10 Dan Biggar; 9 Rhys Webb; 1 Nicky Smith; 2 Scott Baldwin; 3 Ma’afu Fia; 4 Bradley Davies; 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Capt); 6 Olly Cracknell; 7 Justin Tipuric; 8 Rob McCusker

Replacements: 16 Scott Otten; 17 Gareth Thomas; 18 Dmitri Arhip; 19 Adam Beard; 20 Will Jones; 21 Tom Habberfield; 22 James Hook; 23 Dafydd Howells

Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy, said: “It was an important win for us on New Year’s Eve, setting us up for an important month and some huge games we’ve got coming up. Starting on Saturday, four of the next five PRO14 games are against the teams immediately ahead of us in the table, three of them at home, so clearly it’s a crucial phase for us in terms of performance, results, and our ability to climb up a few places towards Champions Cup and play-off spots.

“Everything is up for grabs but we know that we need to find the performance and consistency levels that’ll allow us deliver the right results. We’ve shown the right character and attitude over recent weeks, with three wins in the last four. We need to keep driving each other to be better, week in, week out.

“The Blues will come here looking to attack, they have threats right across the field, and we know that we have to go toe-to-toe with them. They’ve been playing well and will believe in their ability to come to the Liberty and get the result so we’ve got to be up for it from the first whistle and impose ourselves on the game. It’s got all the ingredients of a great contest, a typical derby match with big head to head battles and two teams who know each other very well and want to prove a point. We’re looking forward to it.”

Kristian Dacey will captain Cardiff Blues in Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 derby against the Ospreys (3.15pm) as one of six changes to the starting line-up that faced the Scarlets.

Wales’ Capital Region were left frustrated following their slender loss to the reigning champions but are back in derby action for the third time in 11 days at the Liberty Stadium.

With several key players returning to fitness, head coach Danny Wilson has reshuffled his side with Lloyd Williams and Jarrod Evans coming in at half-back.

Gareth Anscombe switches to full-back and is joined in the back three by Alex Cuthbert, who makes his first start since being injured on Wales duty. There are three more changes in the pack with Anton Peikrishvili returning alongside Dacey in the front-row and Damian Welch given the nod ahead of George Earle in the second-row.

Wilson said: “We were extremely disappointed we didn’t come out of the Scarlets game with a win, we dominated almost every area of the game and did everything bar win.We certainly go to the Liberty Stadium confident that we can test them, but they have been playing much better over the last month.

“They have gone back to traditional Ospreys. They have a bit more line speed in defence, they’re a bit more direct and set-piece based in their attack and we have to be able to deal with that.

“But if we can perform with the same intensity, ferocity and dominate the areas of the game that we dominated against the Scarlets then there’s no reason why we can’t go to the Liberty and get a win. That win in the stadium got the monkey off our back and to go to the Liberty and to get a win would be one step further.

“It all makes for another great occasion. We’re really keen to finish the three derbies with a win, we should be sat here with two wins but we’re sat here with one and we want to finish with another.”

Cardiff Blues club captain Gethin Jenkins also makes his latest return to action following the facial injury he suffered on his comeback against the Dragons on boxing day.

Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Owen Lane; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey (capt), Anton Peikrishvili, Damian Welch, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Gethin Jenkins, Dillon Lewis, George Earle, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Garyn Smith, Matthew Morgan.