Kristian Dacey returns to captain Cardiff Blues in Saturday's crucial Guinness PRO14 encounter against Connacht at Cardiff Arms Park. (KO 5.15pm).
The Irish province currently sit five points ahead of Wales’ Capital Region in Conference A, as the race for European qualification heats up.
Hooker, Dacey, recovers from a shoulder injury and is one of eight changes made following last week’s bonus point win over Lyon in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Shane Lewis-Hughes, who featured in recent European encounters against Glasgow Warriors and Lyon, makes his first start in the Guinness PRO14, alongside Olly Robinson and Nick Williams in the back row.
Robinson steps into the number seven jersey, replacing Josh Navidi who is away on international duty, while Brad Thyer and George Earle are also introduced to the pack.
Steven Shingler and Lloyd Williams both return to form the half back partnership, with Matthew Morgan the other change amongst the backline.
John Mulvihill has emphasised the importance of Saturday’s clash and has been encouraged by his side’s preparations.
“We came through the Lyon game really well, and we’ve got a few boys back this week, including Kristian Dacey who will captain the side,” said Mulvihill.
“He leads by example, without saying too much, and is one of our big ball carriers, so we hope he can continue with the good form he’s shown this season.
“This week’s been one of the best we've had in terms of preparation over the last few weeks, in terms of having the full week to train.
“This our first chance to have a real crack at Connacht, and if we win this week it will really put us in touch with third place. But if we lose, we'll be facing an eight to 10-point turnaround for us.
“They will be missing a few key players to international call-ups, as will we, but our depth is good in those areas and we'll be able to put out a good team”
James Botham is named on the bench and is in-line for his Cardiff Blues debut. Also featuring amongst the replacements are Willis Halaholo, who returns to the match day squad after being rested for last week’s clash, and Dan Fish, who provides cover for the number 10 jersey.
Following Saturday’s game, Cardiff Blues head into a two-week break before another vital Championship game, as Glasgow Warriors visit the Welsh capital on Saturday, February 16.
It is a crucial run of games for Mulvihill’s side, with four of the next five fixtures being played at Cardiff Arms Park as Isuzu Southern Kings and Scarlets are also preparing to visit Cardiff over the next two months of action.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Harri Millard, Rey Lee-Lo, Aled Summerhill; Steven Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey (capt), Dmitri Arhip, George Earle, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams
Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Carré, Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, James Botham, Lewis Jones, Dan Fish, Willis Halaholo