Nick Williams returns to captain Cardiff Blues as John Mulvihill names an experienced squad to face Bedford Blues at Goldington Road on Saturday (4pm).
The talismanic number eight signed a new contract at the end of last season and makes his first appearance of the summer as Wales’ Capital Region gear up for the big kick-off with their first fully-fledged pre-season friendly.
Fourteen of the starting 15 have Guinness PRO14 experience with Wales Under-20s star Ioan Davies the anomaly on the wing.
Will Boyde makes his first appearance for the senior team, following a cameo appearance in the Celtic Cup last week, and fellow new signing Jason Tovey pulls on the number 10 jersey.
With just two weeks until the Blues get their PRO14 campaign underway against the Isuzu Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, Mulvihill is well aware of the importance of this fixture.
He said: “It is great to welcome so many senior players back this weekend after a few of the younger guys had a hit out last week for the A-team.
“This week is a really important fixture for us in terms of ensuring we hit the ground running against the Southern Kings, in a vital period for us during the World Cup.
“We have had some opposed sessions, the latest against Bath, some of the boys have featured in the A-league programme and this is the next step in our preparations.
“Bedford are a quality Championship outfit, who are always very competitive and challenging at the top end of the table. There’s obviously a bit of history with their director of rugby and we are looking forward to what will be a really testing encounter.”
Williams is joined in the back-row by Boyde and Shane Lewis-Jones while Rory Thornton and Seb Davies provide a familiar look in the second-row. Elsewhere Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill and Dmitri Arhip combine in the front-row.
Behind the pack, Lewis Jones and Tovey combine at half-back, and Willis Halaholo and Garyn Smith are partnered in the centres. Full back Davies is joined in the back-three by Matthew Morgan and Jason Harries.
There is further experience among the replacements with Kristian Dacey, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Olly Robinson and Josh Turnbull, who all underwent surgery in the off-season, providing a boost with their availability.
Mulvihill added: “The boys came back in for pre-season in really good shape and that is really playing dividends now.
“We have good squad availability, despite six players being away on World Cup duty, and the competition for places is driving us on. This is the last chance for boys to really put their hands up for South Africa and it is vital that we see a performance.”
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; J Harries, G Smith, W Halaholo, I Davies; J Tovey, L Jones; B Thyer, K Myhill, D Arhip, S Davies, R Thornton, S Lewis-Hughes, W Boyde, N Williams
Replacements: K Dacey, R Gill, S Andrews, B Murphy, O Robinson, J Hill, B Thomas, A Summerhill, J Turnbull, A Lawrence