|Cardiff Blues have been boosted by the return of four Wales squad members ahead of Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Toyota Cheetahs at the Arms Park (7.35pm).
Following four weeks of Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup fixtures, the Blues will continue their hunt for European qualification with a crucial Conference A clash against the South African outfit, who currently sit one place ahead of Wales’ Capital Region in the table.
Two of those released back from Wales’ Six Nations camp are included in the starting line-up, as 12 changes are made from last week’s Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat to London Irish.
Seb Davies, who crossed the whitewash against the Exiles, is one of three players to retain their starting spot. The 21-year-old switches from number eight to lock, partnering George Earle in the boiler room.
Ellis Jenkins returns to the openside, and combines with Macauley Cook and Nick Williams in the back row.
Gethin Jenkins will captain the side, and he is named in an experienced front-row, alongside Matthew Rees and Anton Peikrishvili.
Owen Lane returns to the wing while Rey Lee-Lo and Garyn Smith are reunited in midfield, and Lloyd Williams links up with Jarrod Evans at half back.
Wilson has highlighted the importance of the next four weeks of Championship action, and is expecting the Cheetahs to bring a free-flowing, open game to the Welsh capital.
“It’s a massive block of games for us, coming out of qualification for the quarter-finals of Europe, which is one achievement we targeted and getting into those play-off position is another,” said Wilson.
“To do that the Cheetahs are the side above us in the table, comfortably above us, and we have a lot of work to do.
“That work starts by beating them at home. Three of the next four games are at home so we need big crowds at the Arms Park to get behind us and hopefully we can pick up the home wins and momentum to climb and put pressure on the Cheetahs.
“Right now the three of us (Cardiff Blues, Connacht and Ospreys) are very close but it is important that we look up and not down. We sit at the top of that group just and above us is the Cheetahs.
“They are an extremely dangerous team who play a really high tempo, pretty loose brand of rugby and they have a back three who are really dangerous and full of gas.
“They will enjoy playing on our surface but they also have a pack of forwards who are quite impressive in terms of their nuts and bolts and the foundations they provide.
“All round they are a dangerous team and they obviously don’t lose any internationals during this period. It’s a chance for them to come here with us missing a few and them fully-loaded so it will be a great game and one which is vital for us.”
The Blues were dealt two late blows in the build-up to the Arms Park encounter with both Alex Cuthbert and Steve Shingler picking up injuries, which rule them out.
Dan Fish is in-line for a return to PRO14 action from the bench, where he provides fly-half cover, with NatWest 6 Nations squad members, Dillon Lewis and Tomos Williams, also featuring amongst the replacements.
Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams; Aled Summerhill, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Owen Lane; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Matthew Rees, Anton Peikrishvili, George Earle, Seb Davies, Macauley Cook, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Dillon Lewis, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Tomos Williams, Dan Fish, Ryan