Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Scarlets (Sat)

Liam Williams
Liam Williams returns after injuring his ankle playing for Wales against Italy in December
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Saturday, 9 Jan Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C; live BBC Radio Wales commentary and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live scores; highlights on Scrum V, BBC Two Wales, Sun, 10 Jan from 17:30 GMT

Scarlets have recalled Wales backs Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny Williams and Gareth Davies for Saturday’s Pro14 Welsh derby at Cardiff Blues.

There is an all-new front row of Phil Price, hooker Marc Jones and Pieter Scholtz, who makes his first start.

There are 10 changes in total from their New Year’s Day win over Dragons.

Wales fly-half Jarrod Evans is fit to return as one of 11 Cardiff Blues changes from their loss to Ospreys.

Garyn Smith faces at least five months out after injuring his knee in that game and he is replaced at centre by Willis Halaholo, while Matthew Morgan is recalled at full-back with fellow Wales international Hallam Amos moving to the wing.

The only forwards to keep their places are Josh Turnbull and Shane Lewis-Hughes in the back row, where they are joined by recent Wales debutant James Botham.

It is all change in the tight five, with captain Cory Hill restored in the second row and prop Dmitri Arhip making his 100th Pro14 appearance.

Defence coach Richard Hodges will be in charge of Cardiff Blues following this week’s departure of head coach John Mulvihill.

Wales flanker Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins are back in full training, but will not feature this weekend.

Navidi has not played since August 2020 after suffering concussion in training, while Jenkins has been sidelined since November 2018 because of a serious knee injury.

Richard Hodges and John Mulvihill

Scarlets are also without several international players due to long-term injuries, including fly-half Rhys Patchell and flankers Aaron Shingler and James Davies.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll see them back before the end of the season,” said Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney.

“We have been pleased with two wins from two in tough derby games and the challenges don’t get any easier this weekend.

“We are going to be playing a really creative side which in adversity tends to stand up and play really well. They will be a very tough opponent.

“Something like what has happened this week [Mulvihill’s departure] always has a galvanising effect. We know the threats they pose and we are expecting them to put everything on show.”

This will be Cardiff Blues’ second game back at Cardiff City Stadium, following their New Year’s Day defeat there by Ospreys.

Having also used Rodney Parade in Newport as a temporary base while their home ground Cardiff Arms Park was used to support the National Health Service during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cardiff Blues are planning a return to the Arms Park in time to welcome Newcastle Falcons in a European Challenge Cup match on 23 January.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Josh Adams, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Hallam Amos; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, James Ratti, Cory Hill (capt), Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Josh Turnbull.

Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Alun Lawrence, Lloyd Williams, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill.

Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies (capt), Johnny Williams, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Phil Price, Marc Jones, Pieter Scholtz, Tevita Ratuva, Sam Lousi, Blade Thomson, Josh Macleod, Sione Kalamafoni.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Kemsley Mathias, Javan Sebastian, Josh Helps, Ed Kennedy, Kieran Hardy, Sam Costelow, Paul Asquith.

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)

Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse, Mike English (both WRU)

TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)

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