CARDIFF Blues director of rugby Phil Davies is confident that his squad will be able to cope with their hectic festive fixture schedule, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Blues take on the Scarlets in the capital on Friday before returning to the Arms Park to slug it out with the Dragons on Boxing Day.
That means it’s advantage in terms of preparation to the Rodney Parade region, who put their feet up before experiencing their own swift turnaround with a home derby with the Ospreys five days after the battle with the Blues.
The focus at the Blues’ Vale of Glamorgan headquarters has been on their rivals to the west but they must rapidly start thinking of their foes to the east come the final whistle at around 9pm on Friday.
“It’s a challenge but we've planned well for this,” said Davies, whose side head into their clash with the Scarlets on the back of three losses.
“Last week we were economical in our preparation for Montpellier in terms of keeping the players off their feet.
“We used cryotherapy after that game and have managed the players workload both in terms of time on the field and giving them a mental break.
“We should be fine going into the Scarlets on Friday and then we have planned for the Dragons in terms of the turnaround. Then we have a break before we play Munster, so we should be fine.
“The Dragons are a very nuggety team. They have some good solid players and I don't think it will be any different to the bruising battle that we had at Rodney Parade.”
The Blues, who beat the Dragons 16-5 in October, are boosted by the return of Wales lock Bradley Davies following the concussion he suffered when struck off the ball by New Zealand’s Andrew Hore last month.
They are still without centre Jamie Roberts (elbow) and full-back Leigh Halfpenny (neck) who were injured in this month’s Australia defeat.
The Blues could include two ex-Dragons scrum-halves in their ranks following the suspension of Wales number 9 Lloyd Williams.
Alex Walker, 26, from Newport, a Wales Sevens player contracted to Cardiff RFC, has been training with the region. He provides cover for Lewis Jones and fellow former Dragon Rob Lewis.