Warburton back for Cardiff

Sam Warburton will make his first appearance of the season for the Cardiff Blues (50/1 to win the RaboDirect Pro 12 in 2014) when they take on current champions Leinster on Friday night.

Warburton hasn’t played since the second British & Irish Lions Test against Australia in the summer and wasn’t expected to return before the autumn internationals.

The Wales captain is one of five changes for the Blues for their trip to Dublin. Harry Robinson will return to the left wing, with Lloyd Williams coming off the bench at half-back to partner Rhys Patchell.

Captain Matthew Rees returns and Sam Hobbs will also make his first start this season at loosehead.

Leinster (7/4 to win the RaboDirect Pro 12 in 2014) have named Brian O’Driscoll at outside centre with Lions trio Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney all set to feature. Ireland’s Fergus McFadden and Quinn Roux have recovered from their injuries and will also start in what promises to be a tough encounter for both sides.

Cardiff director of rugby, Phil Davies admits his side are looking forward to the challenge as they aim to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Zebre.

He said: “We have made a few changes and we are looking forward to it – it’s a great challenge for us. We’re playing the champions in their own backyard. That is a pretty big challenge and we are looking forward to it. We’re a proud bunch of players and we want to go out and perform in Ireland. We will put a lot of emotion into the performance and also some control and skill, which I think we have shown in the first three games.

“We’ve trained well and built on the good work we have done in the last three or four weeks. We have kept the team going forward and looked at areas where we can improve as we go into a pretty uncompromising fixture.”

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