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The thrills of Guinness PRO12 competition return this weekend, with our four Welsh teams facing big games in round one as the competition that brings you 4 nations action every weekend gets underway.

One of the big-billing fixtures of the weekend sees the Ospreys take on Ulster as the two play-off qualifiers from last season face each other in Belfast whilst over in Galway, Connacht also welcome Welsh opposition, Newport Gwent Dragons this time making the trip west with a tough task ahead at the Sportsground.

The Scarlets face reigning Guinness PRO12 Champions, Glasgow Warriors as they travel to Scotstoun on Saturday evening and the Cardiff Blues host Zebre at home at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday afternoon.


With 12 of their senior team on World Cup duty, the Ospreys back their young stars in the big opening game with added experience giving weight from signings over the summer.

Tom Habberfield makes his 50th Ospreys appearance with two debutants De Kock Steenkamp and Gareth Delve making their Ospreys debuts.

The Ospreys team to face Ulster at Kingspan Stadium on Friday 4th September 2015, KO 7.35pm, is as follows: 15 Dan Evans 14 Kristian Phillips 13 Jonathan Spratt 12 Ben John 11 Tom Grabham 10 Sam Davies 9 Tom Habberfield 1 Marc Thomas 2 Sam Parry 3 Dmitri Arhip 4 Lloyd Ashley (Capt) 5 De Kock Steenkamp 6 Joe Bearman 7 Lloyd Evans 8 Gareth Delve

Replacements: 16 Scott Otten 17 Nicky Smith 18 Cai Griffiths 19 Rory Thornton 20 Dan Baker 21 Sam Underhill 22 Brendon Leonard 23 Ashley Beck

Ospreys Head Coach, Steve Tandy, said: We’ve had a pretty good pre-season, there’s been a good mood in the camp and everyone has worked very hard ahead of this weekend’s game.

“It’s no secret that we’ve got a young group, but we’ve been able to add some experience over the summer, and we want to keep growing as a team, building on the promise we showed at times last season. There’s a real sense of excitement around the environment and we’re all looking forward to getting the season underway.

“Ulster is always a tough place to go. They have a strong squad and a big, passionate and loud crowd who get behind whoever is wearing the Ulster shirt, whatever the circumstances. It can be a real test of character out there so we need to be sure that we are 100 per cent switched on and everybody is completely focused on the job in hand. It’s about the small things, attention to detail, that can make a big difference on the night.”


Five players are handed debuts including South African scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, as the season kick-starts away from home in Galway.

Fullback Carl Meyer is one of the players who signed a full time contract with the Dragons during the summer and he is looking forward to beginning his campaign as a fully-fledged member of the squad. He commented: “I am really looking forward to being a full member of the squad now and I hope to contribute as much as I can.

“The main objective of coming over to Wales was to get a full-time contract and it’s worked out pretty well. I am really grateful for the opportunity and am looking to do the best I can.”

The 24-year-old is joined in the back three by Tom Prydie and newcomer Nick Scott. The centre pairing sees the return of Ross Wardle from injury and ex-Scarlet Adam Warren. Fly-half and Dragons regular Jason Tovey pulls on the number 10 jersey and he is joined in the halfbacks by Sarel Pretorius.

The front row sees the inclusion of Boris Stankovich and newly signed prop Shaun Knight pack down along side hooker and the 2015/16 Dragons skipper Thomas Rhys Thomas. The second row sees Rynard Landman and Cory Hill named, with flankers Nick Crosswell and Nic Cudd joining recently signed number 8 Ed Jackson in the back row.

Dragons team v Connacht Friday 4th September 2015 KO 7.30pm: Carl Meyer, Tom Prydie, Ross Wardle, Adam Warren, Nick Scott, Jason Tovey, Sarel Pretorius; Boris Stankovich, T. Rhys Thomas ©, Shaun Knight, Cory Hill, Rynard Landman, Nick Crosswell, Nic Cudd, Ed Jackson.

Replacements: Hugh Gustafson, Phil Price, Brok Harris, James Thomas, James Benjamin, Charlie Davies, Dorian Jones, Tyler Morgan.


Scarlets’ Scottish international back rower, and former Glasgow Warrior John Barclay, has been named in the starting XV to take on his former side on Saturday evening.

The international back row is named in a strong Scarlets side to take on the champions with fellow international Rob Evans named on the bench having returned from Wales’ Rugby World Cup training camp.

With captain and vice captain Ken Owens and Scott Williams on international duty Hadleigh Parkes has once again been handed the captain’s armband by head coach Wayne Pivac.

Parkes is joined in the back three by Steffan Evans and former flying Fijian winger Michael Tagicakibau. Experienced centre Regan King is joined in the centre by Gareth Owen with Aled Davies and Wales Under 20s outside half Daniel Jones making up the halfback pairing.

The pack has a wealth of experience starting with a front row of Phil John, Emyr Phillips and Peter Edwards who have amassed nearly 450 appearances between them. Newcomer Tom Price and Lewis Rawlins pair up in the second row with Aaron Shingler making a return to the back row after a pre-season injury as he links up with Barclay and James Davies.

Speaking ahead of the Guinness PRO12 clash head coach Wayne Pivac said: “Despite missing a number of their international players Glasgow will still be strong. We’ve had a look at their pre-season, they’re matched hardened, they have a big squad and they’ve been working together now for some time. They’re well coached and will be a formidable side at home.

“They seem to be using a lot of the players from last year, we expect them to be a very similar side in the way they play the game and we’ve prepared accordingly.”

Scarlets are without seven internationals for the first block of the PRO12 season but Pivac says they have prepared well in the off-season without the senior players and have welcomed the return of John Barclay and Rob Evans.

He went on to say: “We’ve known for a long time the situation, we certainly planned to not have the players that were in the enlarged squad. We’re disappointed for the individuals but they’re welcome back and we’re glad to have them back. We’re all in the same boat.

“The group has been training well and we’re looking forward to this first game. We want to improve on last year.”

Scarlets team to take on Glasgow Warriors on Saturday 5th September, kick-off 5.15pm; 15 Steffan Evans, 14 Hadleigh Parkes ©, 13 Regan King, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Daniel Jones, 9 Aled Davies, 1 Phil John, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Peter Edwards, 4 Tom Price, 5 Lewis Rawlins, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 John Barclay

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rob Evans, Will Taylor, George Earle, Rory Pitman, Rhodri Williams, Aled Thomas, Tom Williams


Try machine Tom James returns to take his place on the wing as Cardiff Blues face Zebre at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm).

James – the top try scorer in the history of Cardiff Blues with 39 scores in 115 games – returned for a second spell at the region this summer and is now named in the starting line-up for the big league opener against the Italians.

Head Coach Danny Wilson, who leads the region for the first time into league action, has named a strong line-up, despite nine players currently being away on international duty.

Rhys Patchell and Tavis Knoyle will combine at half back while young gun Aled Summerhill is fit to fire on the opposite flank to James.

Dan Fish is named at full back while Tom Isaacs and Gavin Evans link-up in the centre after impressing throughout pre-season.

Academy graduate Ethan Lewis will make his Guinness PRO12 debut at hooker, with Matthew Rees ruled out of the game after having his appendix removed.

Prop legend Taufa’ao Filise moves a step closer to his double century, as he makes his 197th appearance, with loosehead Sam Hobbs completing the front row.

Jarrad Hoeata and James Down join forces in the second row while captain Josh Navidi and Josh Turnbull play in the back row alongside Number Eight Manoa Vosawai who will come up against his countrymen. Wales Under-20 centre Garyn Smith is among those named on the replacements bench.

Head Coach Wilson said: “The first game of any campaign is always an exciting time and we’ve been pleased with the way the squad has prepared this week and throughout pre-season.

“Zebre will be keen to make a winning start and have a number of high profile and talented players.

“They have threats throughout, but it’s vital we concentrate on ourselves. We need to defend against what they bring and just as importantly impart our own game on the opposition.”

Cardiff Blues team: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle; 1 Sam Hobbs, 2 Ethan Lewis, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 James Down, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Josh Navidi (c), 8 Manoa Vosawai

Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Garyn Smith