Williams makes his return in the Nick of time
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.”