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Hammett hails returning stars

Mark Hammett believes that Cardiff Blues' returning Wales internationals will lift his team to "a new level."

Wing Alex Cuthbert, centre Cory Allen and prop Gethin Jenkins all feature in the starting line-up for Saturday's European Challenge Cup home clash against fellow unbeaten Pool One challengers London Irish.

The teams are locked together on 10 points, suggesting that back-to-back meetings during the next eight days will prove decisive in terms of securing a quarter-final place.

"It's fantastic to welcome back our internationals. These players will boost the squad and raise our game to a new level," Blues rugby director Hammett said.

"We want to make home advantage count, but to do that we need to perform with passion, know our structures and patterns and ensure everyone does their job.

"I've been impressed by the way London Irish look to play the game, and in many ways we are quite similar.

"When then opportunity is there, we both like to play with speed and width. We have got to be armed and ready for that style of attack and look to pressure or stop it."

Saturday's Challenge Cup action also sees Connacht hosting Bayonne in Pool Two, while Pool Three hopefuls Newport Gwent Dragons know they must return from Bucharest with at least four points to realistically retain quarter-final chances.

"Bucharest are a side with a good spirit, and we are not going to underestimate them," Dragons head coach Kingsley Jones said.

"They have been playing well in this competition, and it's away from home, so it's going to be tough, but we have also grown in this competition and will be looking to get a result.

"If you look at the history of Bucharest in this competition, they have always pushed teams very close without being able to get the wins.

"They control the game well from fly-half with a strong kicking game that can be hard to play against."

And on Sunday, Gloucester are boosted by the return of England back Billy Twelvetrees for their Pool Five home game against Zebre, and London Welsh include rugby league recruit Elliot Kear at full-back for his Exiles debut away to Edinburgh.

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