An­scombe switch as Blues re­turn to rugby’s top ta­ble

Western Mail - - SPORT - ANDY HOW­ELL Rugby cor­re­spon­dent andy.how­ell@waleson­line.co.uk

GARETH An­scombe has been switched to full-back from out­side-half for Cardiff Blues’ re­turn to the top ta­ble of Euro­pean club rugby.

The Wales in­ter­na­tional, who is rugby great Brian O’Driscoll’s Welsh­man to star in this sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons Cup, takes over from Matthew Mor­gan with Jar­rod Evans com­ing in as play-maker for to­mor­row’s clash with Lyon at the Mat­mut Sta­dium de Ger­land (1pm).

The Blues lifted Europe’s sec­ond tier Chal­lenge Cup with a stun­ning mug­ging of Glouces­ter in the fi­nal in Bil­bao last May.

And they want to chal­lenge for glory in the Cham­pi­ons Cup with new coach John Mul­vi­hill declar­ing: “It’s great for us as a re­gion to be back in it - the sig­nif­i­cance of this com­pe­ti­tion is vi­tally im­por­tant to us.

“Just be­ing at the launch event, it re­ally hit home what a big com­pe­ti­tion this is and how im­por­tant it is that we are in it each year.

“It is the very best of the best.

“We will go into ev­ery game to com­pete and Lyon is a great fix­ture to kick-off our cam­paign.

“It will be a fan­tas­tic oc­ca­sion and we are all look­ing for­ward to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the at­mos­phere.

“We have done our home­work on them and know if we re­ally go to com­pete, throw the ball around and make it a fast game then we will have an op­por­tu­nity to win.”

The Aus­tralian has made seven changes from the team which beat neigh­bours Dragons away in the Guin­ness PRO14 last week­end.

To­mos Wil­liams comes in for Lloyd Wil­liams at scrum-half while Samoa star Rey Lee-Lo has been de­moted to the sub­sti­tutes with Garyn Smith get­ting his first start of the cam­paign.

Rhys Gill and Dil­lon Lewis come in at prop in place of Brad Thyer and Dmitri Arhip while hard worker Ma­cauley Cook re­places the in­jured Ge­orge Earle at lock with Olly Robin­son, El­lis Jenk­ins and Josh Na­vidi form­ing a quick back-row.

“We’ve ro­tated the team a lit­tle to en­sure boys are man­aged prop­erly and have pur­posely picked a very mo­bile and dynamic back-row to suit the game-plan we want to im­ple­ment,” said Mul­vi­hill.

Star sum­mer re­cruit Samu Manoa is ex­pected to make his de­but off the bench fol­low­ing visa and fit­ness is­sues.

The Blues beat Lyon last sea­son en-route to win­ning the Chal­lenge Cup last sea­son with 13 of Sun­day’s match-day squad hav­ing tasted vic­tory at Stade de Ger­land.

It is the French club’s de­but sea­son in the Cham­pi­ons Cup but they have got off to an im­pres­sive start in the French Top 14 to sit third in the ta­ble.

Lyon:

Char­lie Ngatai; Toby Arnold, Rudi Wulf, Thibaut Re­gard, Noa Nakaitaci; Lionel Beauxis, Jean-Marc Dous­sain; Alexan­dre Menini, Mick­ael Ivaldi, Fran­cisco Gomez Kodela, Felix Lam­bey, Hen­drik Roodt, Julien Puri­celli (capt), Pa­trick So­bela, Loann Gou­jon.

Jeremie Mau­rouard, Raphael Chaume, Cle­ment Ric, Manuel Carizza, Carl Fearns, Dy­lan Cretin, Quentin Delord, Pierre-Louis Barassi.

Gareth An­scombe; Owen Lane, Garyn Smith, Wil­lis Hala­holo, Ja­son Har­ries; Jar­rod Evans, To­mos Wil­liams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Dil­lon Lewis, Ma­cauley Cook, Josh Turn­bull, Olly Robin­son, El­lis Jenk­ins (capt), Josh Na­vidi.

Kirby My­hill, Brad Thyer, Dmitri Arhip, Rory Thorn­ton, Samu Manoa, Lloyd Wil­liams, Rey Lee-Lo, Aled Sum­mer­hill,

Reps: Blues: Reps:

> Gareth An­scombe re­verts to full-back for the Blues against Lyon

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