The Scarlets have given their Welsh international trio of Rob Evans, Samson Lee and Steff Evans a chance to get over the disappointment of not being picked for the World Cup by starting them against the Dragons at Rodney Parade this weekend (Saturday, 4.00pm).
They have all been back in full training with their regional team mates this week and have earned fulsome praise from new head coach Brad Mooar ahead of his final warm-up match before the Guinness PRO14 opener against Connacht at Parc y Scarlets on 28 September.
“Their engagement, their connection with the team and their desire to be involved has been outstanding. They’ve been fully involved and couldn’t have done any more,” said Mooar.
“It has been all about them putting it in for a club that they love and players that they love. It has also been about them saying, ‘I need to be ready to head over to Japan if I’m asked to head over to fill a role’.
“We are building towards the Connacht game and the boys are excited to get out there again.”
Angus O’Brien has recovered from the knee injury that ended his first season at Parc y Scarlets and wears the No 10 jersey against his former side, linking up with Kieran Hardy at half-back.
Evans forms a dangerous back three that includes Johnny McNicholl and Wales U20 wing Ryan Conbeer.
They will all have to be at their sharpest because back in Dragons colours for the first time since April, 2018, will be flying wing Ashton Hewitt.
Among the quickest men in Welsh rugby, he returns seeking to add to the 21 tries he has scored in his 72 games to date for his home region.
There will be a first appearance on home soil for Wales outside-half Sam Davies following his summer transfer from the Ospreys.
He will team up with his former Wales U20 half-back partner Rhodri Williams, who captains the team.
Samoa international lock Brandon Nansen, who has been out of action since January when he picked up a hamstring injury against Scarlets, also makes his long-awaited playing comeback, while Wales prop Leon Brown is set to be introduced off the bench after missing out on a ticket to Japan.
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill will be delighted to see Kristian Dacey, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Olly Robinson and Josh Turnbull all back in action after summer surgery when he takes his side to Bedford Blues for a final run-out before the big kick-off in the Guinness PRO14.
The Blues head to South Africa for their opening encounter against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth in two weeks time.
Will Boyde makes his full debut after a summer switch from the Scalrets, while Wales U20 cap Ioan Davies appears on the wing.
“This week is a really important fixture for us in terms of ensuring we hit the ground running against the Southern Kings. It is a vital period for us during the World Cup,” said Mulvihill.
“We’ve had some opposed sessions, the latest against Bath, and some of the boys have featured in the A-league programme. But 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, Mike Rayer, and we are looking forward to what will be a really testing encounter.
“We’ve got 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.”
Dragons: Jordan Williams; Ashton Hewitt, Adam Warren, Jack Dixon, Owen Jenkins; Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (captain); Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard, Lloyd Fairbrother, Brandon Nansen, Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor, Ollie Griffiths, Lewis Evans
Reps: Ellis Shipp, Ryan Bevington, Leon Brown, Joe Davies, Taine Basham, Luke Baldwin, Jacob Botica, Will Talbot-Davies, Aneurin Owen
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl; Ryan Conbeer, Corey Baldwin, Steff Hughes (captain), Steff Evans; Angus O’Brien, Kieran Hardy; Rob Evans, Marc Jones, Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Steve Cummins, Tom Phillips, Josh Macleod, Uzair Cassiem
Reps: Dom Booth, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Josh Helps, Ed Kennedy, Dan Davis, Dane Blacker, Dan Jones, Paul Asquith, Tom James
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Jason Harries, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Ioan Davies; Jason Tovey, Lewis Jones; Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Will Boyde, Nick Williams
Reps: Kris Dacey, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Ben Murphy, Olly Robinson, Jamie Hill, Ben Thomas, Aled Summerhill, Josh Turnbull, Alun Lawrence