AIRONI RUGBY v CARDIFF BLUES
The new Italian franchise has lost both home games in the Magners League at the Stadio Zaffanella so far, but have at least gained a pair of losing bonus points there.
The Blues have won all six previous encounters they have played against teams from Italy but travel to northern Italy on the back of two losses, against Castres and the Scarlets.
Twelve Cardiff Blues players have been called up to international squads for the Autumn Series, so fringe players will get the chance to impress and pick up some valuable game time. Cardiff RFC half backs Tom Slater and Gareth Davies are on the bench along with Blues Academy player Owen Williams, while Blues Academy player Dan Fish makes his competitive debut at full back.
"When internationals go away, the squad players get that game time and it is time for them to stand up and be counted and show what they are made of, said Director of Rugby David Young.
"People talk about regional coaches earning their money at this time, but I think it is time squad members earned their money.
"There are a lot of frustrated players in all squads who don't get as much game time as they want.
"With Chris Czekaj called up this week to the Wales squad it gives an opportunity to Dan Fish. At the end of the day these boys have to step up. That's why they're in the academy and it's the ideal opportunity for Dan.
"We all know about his attacking game. His defence needed improvement and that's something we've worked on. But no one can doubt his attacking ability, he's great with the ball in hand.
"I am sure there are a lot of eager players ready to play over the next four weeks."
One international who will be available to the Blues is veteran openside Martyn Williams. The triple Lions tourist has been released by Wales to play his part in Friday night's encounter while most of his international team-mates remain in camp preparing for the visit of Australia.
As well as Williams, the Blues will also have Wales props Scott Andrews and John Yapp available in Italy.
"Martyn asked Warren (Gatland) if he could come back to us as he felt he needed a game," explained Young.
"In fairness to Warren he has done us a favour, he's let us have Scott Andrews and John Yapp, who will both play a half. If we didn't have that we would be struggling with the four props rule."
David Young continued,
"I'd like to think that we are hurting a bit from the Scarlets match and will be going over to Italy determined to get the win."
"I'm quite surprised that Aironi haven't picked recorded a victory because when you look at their team they've got quite a lot of internationals playing for them, especially in the pack."
"We know it's going to be a tough day at the office up front and they've pushed teams closer and closer every week."
"It's only a matter of time before they pick up that first win but we've got to make sure it's not us."
The Blues have already won in Italy this season, beating Benetton Treviso 19-7 in round four, but will not be underestimating the threat posed by Aironi.
"I would have thought that they may have looked at this fixture a few weeks ago, knowing we would be without our internationals, and maybe target this game because they will be at full strength," added Young.
15 Dan Fish 14 Richard Mustoe 13 Casey Laulala 12 Dafydd Hewitt 11 Gavin Evans 10 Ceri Sweeney 9 Lloyd Williams
8 Xavier Rush 7 Martyn Williams 6 Maama Molitika 5 Paul Tito (c) 4 Michael Paterson 3 Scott Andrews 2 T Rhys Thomas 1 Tom Davies
16 Rhys Williams 17 Sam Hobbs 18 John Yapp 19 James Down 20 Andries Pretorius 21 Tom Slater 22 Gareth Davies 23 Owen Williams
Referee: Graham Knox (SRU).