JAMES Davies makes his return from injury as the Scarlets resume their hunt for a Guinness PRO14 play-off spot against Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday evening (7.35pm).
The Wales international flanker has been sidelined with a foot issue since the defeat to the Blues at Parc y Scarlets at the end of December.
He is named as one of five changes to the Scarlets’ side that claimed a hard-earned 10-6 win against Munster last time out.
Head coach Wayne Pivac includes eight of Wales’ Six Nations-winning squad in his match-day 23.
Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Patchell, Wyn Jones and Samson Lee are named in the starting XV, with Rob Evans, Gareth Davies, Ken Owens and Steff Evans among the replacements.
Patchell replaces Dan Jones as the only change behind the scrum, while up front, tight-head prop Lee and lock Steve Cummins return. James Davies replaces Dan Davis in the back row, while Marc Jones comes in at hooker for the injured Ryan Elias.
Elias has a shoulder problem and is likely to be sidelined for up to six weeks, as is second row Jake Ball, who has a foot injury.
Successive wins over the Cheetahs and Munster have kept Pivac’s side firmly in the play-off race with only five points separating the Scarlets in fourth from Benetton in second.
Looking forward to Friday’s clash, Pivac said: “It stacks up for a massive derby.
“The team that gets success goes a long way towards getting a place in the play-offs in either conference so there is a lot to play for and interesting with both squads welcoming back players from the Six Nations. It is going to be a tight affair.
“We looked at the last couple of games as ‘must win’ because the position we found ourselves in. We dubbed the Munster as cup final for that group without the internationals and were delighted with the result.
“We are seeing this game as one of two Test matches, Blues and Edinburgh, because all three teams are in the fight for the play-offs.
“They (Blues) are in the same position as us so they will be desperate. They are playing at home, they had success against us last time so they will be reasonably confident.
“It is going to be a big challenge, but we have won our last couple of matches match and if we can get another win it sets us up nicely.”
Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, Kieron Fonotia (capt), Paul Asquith, Ioan Nicholas; Rhys Patchell, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Marc Jones, Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Steve Cummins, Josh Macleod, James Davies, Uzair Cassiem.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Rob Evans, Werner Kruger, Josh Helps, Will Boyde, Gareth Davies, Dan Jones, Steff Evans.
John Mulvihill has called upon his entire Wales contingent for Cardiff Blues.
Following their Grand Slam heroics Josh Navidi and Gareth Anscombe go straight into the starting line-up, with Dillon Lewis named on the bench.
Fellow Six Nations squad members Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans are also all included in the match-day 23 for the Cardiff Arms Park encounter.
Cardiff Blues Team
G Anscombe; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, A Summerhill; J Evans, T Williams; R Gill, K Dacey (capt), D Arhip, J Turnbull, R Thornton, J Navidi, O Robinson, N Williams.
Replacements: E Lewis, R Carre, D Lewis, S Davies, S Lewis-Hughes, L Williams, H Millard, M Morgan.