Wil­liams makes his re­turn in the Nick of time

South Wales Echo - - SPORTS -

IN­JURY-HIT Cardiff Blues have been boosted by the re­turn of Nick Wil­liams for tonight’s Guin­ness PRO14 clash with Glas­gow War­riors at the Arms Park (7.35pm).

Danny Wil­son’s team have lost both El­lis Jenk­ins and Li­ons cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton for the first half of the sea­son, while a third open­side flanker, young Jim Botham, also faces a lengthy lay-off.

So, hav­ing No.8 Wil­liams fit again is a timely back-row lift, with the Kiwi pow­er­house hav­ing re­cov­ered from con­cus­sion.

The 33-year-old for­mer Ulster star is a key man for the Blues, with his abil­ity to carry the ball up and cross the gain line, hope­fully giv­ing them the go-for­ward they have lacked in their open­ing two league games.

There’s also a re­turn for an­other New Zealan­der, with Su­per Rugby win­ner Wil­lis Hala­holo re­called after be­ing left out for last weekend’s trip to Le­in­ster.

Those are the only two changes to the start­ing line-up from the 37-9 de­feat at the RDS, but there are also a cou­ple of no­table re­turnees on the bench.

South African sec­ond row Ge­orge Earle has shaken off a heel prob­lem, while prop Brad Thyer makes his first ap­pear­ance since be­ing hos­pi­talised with de­layed con­cus­sive symp­toms after sus­tain­ing a head in­jury against Glas­gow in Jan­uary.

Eight months on, the 24-year-old loose­head is set to make his come­back against the same op­po­si­tion.

After de­feats to Ed­in­burgh and Le­in­ster, the Blues are look­ing for a first com­pet­i­tive win of the sea­son.

Coach Wil­son said: “We want to per­form at home no mat­ter what game you are com­ing off.

“The im­por­tant thing for us is to build on the 67 min­utes we played against Le­in­ster, which was a much im­proved per­for­mance.

“We played poorly against Ed­in­burgh and got what we de­served, but for 67 min­utes we were a lot bet­ter in the hard­est away fix­ture of the sea­son.

“There was an im­prove­ment from Ed­in­burgh to Le­in­ster and I need to see an im­prove­ment again. We beat Glas­gow at home last sea­son and we will be look­ing to beat them at home again”

In ad­di­tion to War­bur­ton (neck surgery), El­lis Jenk­ins (de­tached ham­string) and Botham (an­kle), the Blues are also with­out front row­ers Gethin Jenk­ins (knee), Kris­tian Dacey (groin), An­ton Peikr­ishvili (lower back), Ta­ufa’ao Filise (knee) and Ethan Lewis (ham­string), while fly-half Gareth An­scombe (groin) and wing Blaine Scully (el­bow) are fur­ther ca­su­al­ties.

“We have a tough set of fix­tures at the start of the sea­son and that’s co­in­cided with nine first team in­juries,” said Wil­son.

“They are start­ing to re­turn or are get­ting close to a re­turn.

“You have to take the rough with the smooth and get on with it. You have in­jury pe­ri­ods, but that gives op­por­tu­nity to other play­ers and to young, de­vel­op­ing Welsh play­ers.”

Glas­gow will ar­rive in Cardiff in bouyant mood hav­ing recorded vic­to­ries over Con­nacht and the Ospreys in their open­ing two league matches un­der new coach Dave Ren­nie.

Li­ons winger Tommy Sey­mour makes his first ap­pear­ance of the sea­son, while the in­tro­duc­tion of flanker Matt Fager­son is the only change in the vis­it­ing pack.

New Zealan­der Ren­nie, who guided the Chiefs to back-to-back Su­per Rugby ti­tles, said: “It’s great to have Tommy back.

“He’s been work­ing hard in train­ing and now he gets the chance to get out and play a bit of footy back in the jersey.”

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