Cardiff Blues A have picked an exciting mix of youth and experience, for the opening clash of their Celtic Cup campaign, as they kick off with a local derby against Dragons A at Rodney Parade on Friday (KO 7.15pm)
Number eight, Alun Lawrence, has been named captain for the Newport clash, and is joined by fellow Wales under-20 internationals, Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham, in the back row.
Macauley Cook and James Down form an experienced lock partnership, with more than 250 senior appearances between them, while Liam Belcher, Keiron Assiratti and Rhys Carré complete the pack.
Youngsters Cam Lewis and Ben Jones are included in the backline, and will be supported by the experience of players such as Dan Fish, Steven Shingler and Lewis Jones.
Richie Rees, who is part of the coaching team alongside T Rhys Thomas, George Earle and Gethin Jenkins, said: “The entire squad and us as a coaching team are excited for the opportunities this new structure and competition will give us.
“We’ve been training well over the past couple of weeks, and the friendly against Scarlets gave us an idea of where we are as a squad. The quality in that game was high and that was very pleasing to see.
“Boys like Steve Shingler and Macauley Cook will help guide some of the younger boys through these games. Playing with and learning from experienced regional players will be invaluable for the younger boys’ development.
“Our main focus heading into this block of games will be how the boys perform. The aim is to see improvement both individually & collectively while increasing accountability throughout.
“There’s some exciting games to come, some good trips on the cards and it will also be huge for their development off-the-field.
“This will be some of the boys’ first experience of an intensive competitive block over a number of weeks. There are two away trips to Ireland to come, and the hope is that we get the boys ready - both on and off the field - for when they get called up for the senior team, which will happen in the coming weeks.”
Wales Sevens international, Cai Devine, features on a young bench, which contains four players capped at Wales under-20 level, in Iestyn Harris, Will Davies King, Ben Thomas and Max Llewellyn.
Cardiff Blues A: Dan Fish; Aled Summerhill, Cam Lewis, Steven Shingler, Tom Williams; Ben Jones, Lewis Jones; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Keiron Assiratti, Macauley Cook, James Down, Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Alun Lawrence (capt)
Replacements: Iestyn Harris, Fraser Young, Will Davies King, Cai Devine, Ioan Rhys Davies, Jamies Hill, Ben Thomas, Max Llewellyn