Tongan giant Lopeti Timani also returns for a game that will be the first of three back-to-back Welsh derbies over the festive period for Dai Young’s men. They welcome the Ospreys to the Arms Park on 1 January 1 and then host the Scarlets six days later.
Young, who has been in fine form since returning to the Welsh capital this season, missed out on last week’s European Challenge cup trip to Newcastle. He joins Taulupe Faletau and skipper Josh Turnbull in a back row set for a showdown with Aaron Wainwright, Harri Keddie and Ross Moriarty.
Timani was rested for the big win in the north east last week and returns to join Rory Thornton in the second row.
Behind the scrum, Josh Adams continues at full back having made the switch to the No 15 jersey during the second half of last week’s win. Theo Cabango re-joins the back three.
Centre Max Llewellyn has been ruled out for up to three months with an ankle injury and so another of the club’s home grown prodcuts, Ben Thomas, takes his place. Tomos Williams is paired with Rhys Priestland at half back.
Cardiff will be aiming for a double over their biggest rivals having beaten them 31-14 in October at the Arms Park. Even so, Dai Young has warned the Blue & Blacks that they must be at their best.
“We have a good record against the Dragons but we have ridden our luck on a number of occasions recently and there are games where they probably deserved to win,” said Young.
“They have continued their improvement this season, they have the strongest squad they have had in a long time and Dai Flanagan has brought further positivity and confidence to their ranks. We will definitely need to be at our best and are preparing for a hugely physical challenge at Rodney Parade.
“We go into the encounter on the back of some good form with two bonus-point wins in the European Challenge Cup but we know this will be a step up in intensity and physicality.
“If we can perform to our best then we can kick-off a busy Christmas period with a good win before facing the Ospreys and Scarlets back at the Arms Park. The group is hugely motivated and excited for a crucial run of fixtures, which could define our season.”
Cardiff: Josh Adams; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Theo Cabango; Rhys Priestland, Tomos Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Lopeti Timani, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull (captain), Thomas Young, Taulupe Faletau
Reps: Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Will Davies-King, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins, Lloyd Williams, Jarrod Evans, Mason Grady
Unavailable for selection: Josh Navidi, Willis Halaholo, Liam Williams, Jacob Beetham, Gwilym Bradley, James Botham, Jamie Hill, Max Llewellyn, James Ratti, Dillon Lewis