Friday 7 January – CARDIFF BLUES v AIRONI RUGBY, At Cardiff City Stadium 7.30pm.
Referee: Peter Allan ( SRU, 42nd League game)
Cardiff Blues ended a three game losing run with their 27-25 victory over Ospreys on New Year’s Eve. The Blues have won all seven previous encounters against Italian opponents in all competitions.
Aironi Rugby are still without a win in the Magners League but have picked up losing bonus points in each of their last two matches. Blues won 20-3 when the two sides met at Stadio Zaffanella in October.
Cardiff Blues outside half Ceri Sweeney will start when the Blues take on Aironi. Sweeney last started for the Blues on the 27th of November when they recorded a 38-6 victory over Glasgow. Tom Slater starts at scrum half, while Tom Shanklin is paired with Jamie Roberts at Centre for the first time this season. Leigh Halfpenny starts on the wing having come off the bench in last Friday’s win over the Ospreys.
In the forwards Tom Brown starts at Number 8 for the first time in the Magners League, his other two starts being in the LV=Cup. There is one other change in the forwards with John Yapp starting at tighthead in place of Fau Filise.
Cardiff Blues ended a three game losing run with their 27-25 victory over Ospreys on New Year’s Eve and will aim to start 2011 with a win when they welcome their Italian opponents.
The Blues have won all seven previous encounters against Italian sides in all competitions while Aironi Rugby are still without a win in the Magners League.
Despite the record Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby, David Young, has seen an improvement in Aironi’s recent matches. ”We have faced Aironi already this season and it was a hard match out in Italy. Certainly Rowland Phillips will get their team well organized,” said Young. ”I think their results have shown that they’ve been very close in the last couple of games and recently recorded a famous win over Biarritz in the Heineken Cup.” ”We are expecting a tough game, but it’s a game we have to win. That’s where we are in the season. We need the wins and bonus points if we can get them.” The Blues won 20-3 when the two sides met at Stadio Zaffanella in October and could climb back into the top four again if they get the right result.
“On the back of two good performances and getting nothing it was nice to get the result against the Ospreys,” added Young.
“Hopefully we are all happier working after a win than we would be working after a loss.”
“From now on every game has to be a cup final and a must win game for us. This is not the time to go on a bad run and we aim to start 2011 strongly.”
15 Chris Czekaj 14 Leigh Halfpenny 13 Tom Shanklin 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Tom James 10 Ceri Sweeney 9 Tom Slater
8 Tom Brown 7 Sam Warburton 6 Andries Pretorius 5 Paul Tito (c) 4 Bradley Davies 3 Jon Yapp 2 T Rhys Thomas 1 Gethin Jenkins
16 Gareth Williams 17 Scott Andrews 18 Sam Hobbs 19 Deiniol Jones 20 Martyn Williams 21 Rhys Downes 22 Dan Parks 23 Dafydd Hewitt
AIRONI TEAM NEWS
Kaine Robertson’s first start is the biggest news in the Aironi that will face the Blues at Cardiff City Stadium.
“I can’t wait to play again” said the Italian international wing, who injured himself during a friendly match in August. “I’m sorry that Giulio Toniolatti has been suspended, but I’m really happy to be back and ready to help my team. It will be like an international game against such an important team with a lot of Welsh test players”.
After stunning Biarritz and collecting two bonus points in losses against Treviso, Aironi are looking to continue to improve against the Blues.
In addition to Robertson, there are some other changes in the team. Gilberto Pavan is back in the starting line-up at centre, while Tebaldi has a week off at scrum half, and is replaced by Pablo Canavosio with Michael Wilson on the bench. In the back row Favaro and Krause will be the flankers with Nick Williams at No.8
There is a new duo in the second row,with Marco Bortolami suspended for one week and Quintin Geldenhuys on the bench, Joshua Furno and Carlo Del Fava will be the locks. Del Fava will also skipper the team. In the front row Salvatore Perugini will play with Fabio Ongaro and Fabio Staibano.
AIRONI: 15 Julien Laharrague; 14 Kaine Robertson, 13 Rodd Penney, 12 Gilberto Pavan, 11 Matteo Pratichetti; 10 James Marshall, 9 Pablo Canavosio; 1 Salvatore Perugini, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 3 Fabio Staibano; 4 Joshua Furno, 5 Carlo Del Fava (cap); 6 Simone Favaro, 7 Gareth Krause, 8 Nick Williams.
Replacements: 16 Luigi Ferraro, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Josh Sole, 21 Michael Wilson, 22 Gabriel Pizarro, 23 Paolo Buso