Cuth­bert on bench as the Blues go in search of Pau win

South Wales Echo - - SPORT -

WALES winger Alex Cuth­bert has been dropped to the bench for the Cardiff Blues’ cru­cial Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup clash against Pau this week­end.

To have hopes of win­ning the Pool Four, the in­jury-hit Blues must bet­ter Bath’s re­sults in their fi­nal two matches.

But just days be­fore Rob How­ley is due to name his squad for the 2017 Six Na­tions, Bri­tish Lion Cuth­bert has been con­signed to the pine.

And with USA in­ter­na­tional Blaine Scully ab­sent due to per­sonal rea­sons, Cory Allen and young Rhun Wil­liams will oc­cupy the spots out wide, with Matthew Mor­gan op­er­at­ing at full-back.

Else­where in the back­line, Steve Shin­gler has been ush­ered across to in­side cen­tre, forc­ing Wil­lis Hala­holo to out­side cen­tre to cover for the ab­sent Rey-Lee Lo.

Nicky Robin­son will run the show at fly-half, where he’ll be part­nered by To­mos Wil­liams at scrum-half and not Wales in­ter­na­tional Lloyd Wil­liams, an­other high pro­file name who will have to be con­tent with a spot on the bench.

Amid eight changes al­to­gether, the new faces in the for­wards are slightly more forced upon Wil­son thanks to a grow­ing in­jury list.

El­lis Jenk­ins and Rhys Gill have not re­cov­ered from con­cus­sions they suf­fered against Glasgow last week, mean­ing Corey Do­ma­chowski, who has played just 11 min­utes of pro­fes­sional rugby, will start at loose-head with Ma­cauley Cook com­ing into the back row.

Ta­ufa’ao Filise and Matthew Rees join the 20-year-old Do­ma­chowski in what is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent front row to the one that started against Glasgow last week, with Ge­or­gian prop An­ton Peikr­ishvili on the bench and Kris­tian Dacey un­avail­able.

The Blues have en­joyed some suc­cess in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion this sea­son, while their Guin­ness Pro12 form has waned in re­cent weeks.

Whilst the re­turn of con­ti­nen­tal ac­tion pro­vides a rel­a­tive respite from the Pro12, Blues boss Danny Wil­son points out that the same in­jury is­sues re­main.

“It does give us a bit of a break (from the Pro12),” he said.

“Hav­ing said that, we still have the same sort of is­sues, which is cur­rently try­ing to man­age a squad that has a lot of in­jury prob­lems.

“We cur­rently have seven recog­nised first team play­ers in­jured.

“We’re pretty de­pleted and I think there’s def­i­nitely a link there. We won seven out of our first 10 games when we had a very healthy squad to se­lect from and at this point we don’t have a very healthy squad.”

Win­less Pau are cur­rently prop­ping up Pool Four with a mis­er­able one point to their name.

Like other French teams, they have been ac­cused of not tak­ing the com­pe­ti­tion se­ri­ously - for­mer All Black Con­rad Smith is not even reg­is­tered for the com­pe­ti­tion - in­stead choos­ing to fo­cus on the lu­cra­tive Top 14 league.

They’ve also opted not to se­lect an­other Kiwi in the shape of Colin Slade, and St­ef­fon Ar­mitage has also been rested.

Wil­son hinted that if the win­ners of the Chal­lenge Cup were re­warded with a spot in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons Cup, the French teams might be more in­clined to se­lect fully-loaded sides.

“The French teams recog­nise when is ap­pro­pri­ate to have those play­ers com­pet­ing for places and when is ap­pro­pri­ate to give them a rest,” he said.

“If com­pe­ti­tions al­low a qual­i­fi­ca­tion into the Cham­pi­ons Cup, I think sides have pushed a lit­tle bit harder in the past.

“If that isn’t a pos­si­bil­ity for them then sides may choose to fo­cus on the league.”

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