Davies in the spotlight as Penarth prepare for Cardiff

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The Independent Online
ROBERT COLE

There will not be any Easter bonnets on parade at the Athletic Field this afternoon - but for Penarth it will be like the halcyon days when there were plenty of caps around. The visit of the league champions Cardiff for a fifth-round Swalec Cup tie is the biggest event the Seasiders have hosted since the end of their annual Easter games with the Barbarians.

Cardiff, the 1994 cup winners, have named a side of 13 internationals for the four-mile trip to their Third Division neighbours. Three days before the Wales coach, Kevin Bowring, unveils his 32-player squad for the Five Nations' Championship, the centre of attention is sure to be Jonathan Davies, who joins Mike Hall in the midfield in the wake of Mark Ring's announcement of his departure for West Hartlepool.

Davies, who won the 27th and last of his union caps in 1988, has recovered from the hernia operation that interrupted his return from rugby league and will know on Tuesday if he figures in Bowring's immediate plans, starting with England at Twickenham on 3 February.

While the presence of Davies should help swell a bumper pay-day for Penarth, the hosts are not just going to take the money and run. "If Cardiff play poorly and we play very well, then we have a chance," their captain, Mark Edwards, one of a dozen former Cardiff players in the Penarth squad, said.

It does not look promising for any significant giant-killing acts in any of the ties. Not even the defending cup holders, Swansea, should be troubled by the visit of Tonmawr despite injuries having claimed the first- choice back five of their scrum. Llanelli, albeit without current internationals Justin Thomas and Matthew Wintle, are taking no chances by naming a side boasting 11 caps to travel to Merthyr, with Ieuan Evans needing no introduction to a side against whom he scored six tries in their cup meeting a decade ago.

Pontypridd, beaten 17-12 by the All Whites in last May's final, face a tricky all First Division meting with Treorchy at Sardis Road. Abertillery host Bridgend in the only other meeting between clubs from the leading 12.

Pontypridd have five players facing fitness tests this morning before they announce their starting line-up. The five include Neil Jenkins, Wales' record points scorer who has been out with collar-bone damage.

For Jenkins, like Davies, it probably represents the last chance to impress Bowring before the coach reveals his Five Nations hand on Tuesday.

SWALEC CUP Fifth round: Abergavenny v Cardiff Institute; Abertillery v Bridgend; Builth Wells v Rumney; Caerphilly v Rhymney; Merthyr v Llanelli; Neath v Heol-y-Cyw; Newbridge v Cross Keys; Newport v Ystradgynlais; Penarth v Cardiff; Penygraig v Llandovery, Pontypridd v Treorchy; South Wales Police v Abercynon; Swansea v Tonmawr; Dunvant v Glamorgan Wanderers; Whitland v Blackwood; Ynysddu v Maesteg.

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