Cardiff Blues have made five changes for Saturday’s season finale against Zebre Rugby at Cardiff Arms Park (KO 7.35pm).
Last week’s narrow defeat in Munster saw Dai Young’s side ruled out of the race for a place in the Rainbow Cup final, meaning Saturday’s encounter will bring the season to a close in the capital.
After crossing the whitewash as a replacement at Thomond Park last time out, Welsh international Lloyd Williams makes a return to the number nine jersey, linking up with Jarrod Evans at half back.
Hallam Amos is ruled out after suffering a concussion in Limerick, while the decision was made to rest Josh Adams ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
The changes among the back three sees Matthew Morgan returning to the starting XV for the first time since the European Challenge Cup quarter final clash against London Irish, having recovered from a recent groin injury.
Dan Fish takes his place on the wing, with Jason Harries completing the back three unit, having featured in all Rainbow Cup games.
Young has continued with the centre partnership of Willis Halaholo and Ben Thomas, who have impressed in recent weeks, but there are two further changes made in the pack.
Hooker Liam Belcher is introduced in the front row, completing a front five of academy graduates which includes three internationals in the form of Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill and Seb Davies.
Gwilym Bradley will don the number seven jersey, as James Botham switches to the blindside. The resilient Josh Turnbull will captain the side from number eight.
Director of rugby, Young, said: “We want to finish on a high in the last game of the season at home. Hopefully we’ll have the performance that we’re looking for alongside the result, which would give the Cardiff supporters a little bit of excitement ahead of coming back at the start of next season when, hopefully, the crowds are back on board.
“Josh [Adams] isn’t involved this week. It’s not a meaningless game, before people say that we’re not addressing it in the right way, but I’ve already had sleepless nights before we played Josh in the last couple of games.
“You can’t wrap them in cotton wool, but you also don’t want anyone to miss the tour on the back of an injury. We now can’t make the final so there’s no way I was going to play him in this game, that would almost be tempting fate.
“He’s played enough rugby and demonstrated that he’s ready to play. If this was an opportunity to get to the final, I might’ve taken a different view.
“This has plenty of meaning for us, as we want to win and finish the season on a high but for someone who has experienced those once-in-a-lifetime moments of going on a Lions tour, I wouldn’t want to see one of my players missing out after playing a game here, especially when we can’t achieve more than a great performance and result.”
Among the replacements, Rey Lee-Lo makes a welcome return following a leg injury which has kept him on the sidelines since early April.
Young feels the Rainbow Cup has benefitted his side on a number of levels as they look to hit the ground running ahead of next season.
“The competition has definitely been a useful exercise for us. I’ve only been here for a few months and it’s given me an opportunity to look at some players.
“It’s been an opportunity for boys who haven’t figured much in the league this year, as well as a chance to try out different combinations and look at players in alternative positions.
“Over the last couple of games, we’ve tried to narrow it down to somewhere around what we would believe is our best available 23 at the moment.
“There will obviously be a few debates, there’s always going to be when you’ve got the likes of Josh Adams, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins and Owen Lane out, and there are a number of players not available that would make most people’s best Cardiff Blues 23.”
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Jason Harries, Willis Halaholo, Ben Thomas, Dan Fish; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Corey Domachowski, Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gwilym Bradley, Josh Turnbull (capt.)
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carré, Dmitri Arhip, Rory Thornton, Alun Lawrence, Tomos Williams, Harri Millard, Rey Lee-Lo