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Cardiff Blues kick off the weekend’s Guinness PRO12 action in Wales with a big home fixture on Friday night against league leaders and top try scorers Connacht who have won seven from eight games in the PRO12 this season.

Connacht captain John Muldoon will become the first player to make 200 appearances in the Guinness PRO12 when he runs out tonight.

A big night for the hosts Cardiff Blues, the capital city team will be looking to build on a strong performance in last weekend’s Welsh derby against the Ospreys and hope for plenty of support from their home crowd at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park (kick off 7.05pm).

Wing Alex Cuthbert returns to the starting line-up. Fit-again Wales international Cuthbert makes his comeback as Head Coach Danny Wilson makes five changes to the side that narrowly lost out to Ospreys in the derby.

The other change to the back line is a call-up for Rhys Patchell who plays in the full back jersey.

Hooker Ethan Lewis is handed a starting spot up front while Jarrod Hoeata returns in the second row to partner Lou Reed.

The final change to the team comes in the back row as Macauley Cook comes in at blindside with Josh Turnbull moving to openside flanker.

Head Coach Danny Wilson said: “We’re all looking forward to facing the league leaders and top try points scorers in the Guinness PRO12 on home soil. Connacht have built a squad over a period of years that has really gelled together and they are really starting to see the fruits of that labour.

“They have had consistency and stability and there is real togetherness under Pat Lam. They have recruited well and also developed from within. We know what a task it is to play a top of the table side, but it is a home game and we come in of the back of a good performance in the derby.

“Elements of our performance are starting to build and hopefully we can get the results we all want. If we can get a win it would really bounce our season and kick us on. We massively respect what Connacht have done, but this Friday we want to put them under pressure and get a result that can be a springboard for the season.”

Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams; 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Ethan Lewis, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Lou Reed, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Josh Turnbull, 8 Manoa Vosawai

Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Down, 20 Cam Dolan, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Garyn Smith, 23 Dan Fish

SCARLETS

Scarlets head to the Italian city of Treviso this weekend hoping to secure their eighth victory in the Guinness PRO12 before focus returns once again to the European Rugby Champions Cup.

With seven victories from eight games Scarlets are currently sitting in second position in the Guinness PRO12 table behind league leaders Connacht. Scarlets Head Coach Wayne Pivac has made four changes, one positional, to the side that secured victory over Zebre at Parc y Scarlets on Sunday.

John Barclay remains as captain but moves to his more preferred position of openside flanker at 7 with James Davies sidelined with a foot injury. Morgan Allen comes in at number 8 looking to make his first competitive start for the Scarlets as he makes a return from a bicep injury suffered ahead of the opening round of the PRO12 campaign.

Jake Ball makes a return to the second row with Maselino Paulino moving to the replacements bench. Michael Tagicakibau returns to the wing in the only change to the backline.

Speaking earlier this week head coach Wayne Pivac said: “They will be a very similar threat to Zebre who drove all of their line outs. Treviso are no different and they like to put pressure on through their forwards.

“It will be another tough ask away from home but we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s a really important game. It’s a tricky one this game, it’s a must win for us to remain where we are and stay in the race really.”

Scarlets team to take on Benetton Treviso, Saturday 5th December, kick-off 3pm (local time); 15 Steff Evans, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Regan King, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Aled Davies, 1 Rob Evans, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 John Barclay [c], 8 Morgan Allen

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Dylan Evans, Rhodri Jones, Tom Price, Maselino Paulino, Rhodri Williams, Steve Shingler, Gareth Owen

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS

Newport Gwent Dragons Captain Thomas Rhys Thomas has returned to full fitness after recovering from a foot injury and will be in the starting line-up to take on Munster Rugby in the Guinness PRO12 on Sunday afternoon at Rodney Parade (kick off 2.30pm).

The 33-year-old has recently played in the British and Irish Cup for the Dragons Premiership Select side and joins five other personnel changes that have been made to the team.

Commenting on the return of Thomas Rhys Thomas, Director of Rugby Lyn Jones said: “It’s a big relief for us to have ‘TRT’ back. He has been appointed captain for his leadership and maturity. We have missed those qualities in our side dreadfully.

“Elliot Dee has played very well and has shown the promise time and time again but at this stage we need to have Rhys back in.”

The back line remains unchanged with fullback Carl Meyer joining wings Tom Prydie and Ashton Hewitt. The centre pairing also receives the nod from the coaching staff as Adam Hughes and Adam Warren are selected. The half backs see one change made as fly-half Dorian Jones is joined by scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.

The front row has two changes made to it, as Boris Stankovich is joined by skipper Thomas Rhys Thomas and tight-head prop Brok Harris. Matthew Screech and Rynard Landman remain in the second row, as three changes are made to the back row. Flankers Lewis Evans and Nic Cudd return to the starting XV and are joined by Welsh Rugby World Cup star Taulupe Faletau.

The replacements bench has three changes made to it as Rhys Buckley, Ed Jackson and Charlie Davies join Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Cory Hill, Jason Tovey and Ross Wardle.

Newport Gwent Dragons team to face Munster: Carl Meyer, Tom Prydie, Adam Hughes, Adam Warren, Ashton Hewitt, Dorian Jones, Sarel Pretorius; Boris Stankovich, Thomas Rhys Thomas ©, Brok Harris, Matthew Screech, Rynard Landman, Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Cory Hill, Ed Jackson, Charlie Davies, Jason Tovey, Ross Wardle.

OSPREYS

The Ospreys head out to Italy on the back of a win from last weekend’s Welsh derby but knowing their Italian opponents Zebre have good form at home.

Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy, said: “We are going out to Italy knowing that we have to be at our very best on Sunday. They’ve got an excellent record at their place, are a very dangerous side, and if we are just a couple of percent off our game then we won’t get what we need from the game.

“Our slow start in the PRO12 means there’s no margin for error for us. Our form over the last few weeks, in the league and in Europe, has been better, but there is still some way for us to go. We are heading in the right direction but nobody is under any illusions about where we are as a group at the moment.

“The attitude we showed last weekend against the Blues was very pleasing. It wasn’t a vintage performance, we know that, but you’ve got to put things in context. There was a short turnaround from a huge, physical game in France, the conditions were awful, and we found ourselves behind on the scoreboard, but we dug in and showed real character.

“What was most pleasing was the way we defended in the last four or five minutes to keep them at bay. That spoke volumes about the culture we have here, about how the boys play for each other and for the jersey. Like the week before, we kept going right until the whistle and got our reward.

“The next five or six weeks are massive for us now. It’s important that we keep building momentum, keep working hard to improve week on week, and get our performances right. It’s an exciting time, with big game after big game, but we’ve got to stay focused if we are going to achieve what we want over the next few weeks.”

The Ospreys team to play Zebre at Stadio XXV Aprile, on Sunday 6th December 2015, KO 3.00pm (local time): 15 Dan Evans; 14 Jeff Hassler; 13 Jonathan Spratt; 12 Josh Matavesi; 11 Eli Walker; 10 Sam Davies; 9 Tom Habberfield; 1 Paul James; 2 Sam Parry; 3 Dmitri Arhip; 4 Lloyd Ashley; 5 Tyler Ardron; 6 James King; 7 Justin Tipuric (Capt); 8 Dan Baker

Replacements 16 Scott Otten; 17 Nicky Smith; 18 Ma’afu Fia; 19 Alun Wyn Jones; 20 Olly Cracknell; 21 Martin Roberts; 22 Dan Biggar; 23 Hanno Dirksen