RaboDirect PRO12: Saturday preview
Last Updated: 22/11/13 3:40pm
Sam Hobbs: Captains Cardiff Blues against Munster on Saturday
Sam Hobbs will captain Cardiff Blues as the region returns to RaboDirect PRO12 action against league leaders Munster at the Arms Park on Saturday.
Blues make a total of five changes to the side that defeated Ospreys in the LV= Cup last week, with a new-look back-row seeing flankers Andries Pretorius and Josh Navidi declared fit to join forces with number eight Robin Copeland. Prop Taufa'ao Filise is also recalled to the front-row in the final change to the home pack.
Scrum-half Lewis Jones is named among the backs, partnering fly-half Simon Humberstone on his first start for the region at the Arms Park, while Tom Williams will start at full-back.
Gareth Davies returns among the replacements while there could be first ever appearance for Academy scrum half Tomos Williams, with the Wales U18 international on the bench.
For Munster, head coach Rob Penney has made five changes to the side that beat Ospreys in their last outing at Thomond Park.
Dave Kilcoyne drops to the bench with James Cronin coming into the front-row alongside BJ Botha and Damien Varley, who captains the side. The only other change in the forwards sees Billy Holland return to the side ahead of Donncha O'Callaghan and he joins fellow lock Dave Foley in the starting XV.
There are three changes in the backs with Cathal Sheridan coming in for Duncan Williams at scrum-half and JJ Hanrahan will earn his 20th cap for Munster as he replaces the injured Ian Keatley at fly-half. The centre partnership of Ivan Dineen and former Cardiff Blue Casey Laulala remains intact with Andrew Conway coming back into the side.
With Italy in action against Argentina this weekend,Zebre have handed opportunities to a number of fringe players for the clash with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
The back three comprises Dion Berryman, David Odiete, and Giulio Toniolatti, while Paul Buso comes into the side at fly-half. Veteran loosehead Salvatore Perugini retains the number one jersey, but is joined in the front-row by Andrea Handles and David Ryan this week. Augustin Knights makes his Pro12 debut in the second-row alongside Michael van Vuytens.
Ospreys forwards coach Chris Gibbs is expecting a tough challenge from their Italian opponents.
"We've learnt a lot from the LV=Cup, it's been a good opportunity to look at the younger players and although we didn't get the results we got a chance to see them and who we have coming through as players," said Gibbs.
"Although Zebre haven't had some of the results they would have wanted they are a very competitive side. We have to control our set piece play and make sure we shut them down".
In the last of Saturday's games, bottom side Connacht have handed Eoghan Masterson his first cap for the clash with Scarlets at the Sportsground in Galway.
He starts at number eight, a month after signing for the Connacht Academy, while this weekend's game is Michael Swift's 250th for Connacht. His second-row partner Craig Clarke captains the side.
In the backline, Galway-man Eoin Griffin makes a welcome return to the centre, while Darragh Leader moves to the wing and Craig Ronaldson has been selected at fly-half.
For Scarlets, in-form prop Phil John captains the side in the absence of injured skipper Rob McCusker (calf strain), with the experience in the back-row that proved successful against Ulster returning in the form of Aaron Shingler, Josh Turnbull and Sione Timani.
There's a return to the centre partnership of Gareth Maule and Adam Warren and a second start in a Scarlets shirt for new New Zealand utility back Frazier Climo. The talented back-three player joined Scarlets two weeks ago from ITM Cup side Taranaki.