Cardiff Blues coach Dai Young admits that his side are struggling to live up to the standards they set last season.
The Blues have won just four of their 11 Magners League fixtures so far this season, with last weekend’s defeat to Edinburgh leaving them seven points of a play-off spot.
Young’s men have also failed to impose themselves fully on a European group that features triple Heineken Cup winners Toulouse, last season’s quarter-finalists Harlequins and another English side in Sale Sharks.
The Blues have won two and lost two of their opening four fixtures in Pool 5 and currently sit five points behind Toulouse in third place ahead of this Saturday’s home tie with Sale.
Defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium would mean an early exit from a tournament in which they excelled last season, winning all six of their pool games and only failing to make the final by virtue of a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to Leicester.
And Young admits that he is particularly frustrated that his side haven’t been able to build on the foundations they put in place during the 2008/09 campaign.
“We haven’t kicked on and this is the first year, I believe, since I have been in charge, where we haven’t gone in the right direction,” said Young.
“We are stuttering at the moment and that is a hugely frustrating for me – we have lost 60 percent of our games by a point.
“I don’t think we are playing badly, but we are certainly only playing in patches and that is where we are struggling.
“Some of the players who played well last year aren’t playing as well as they did last year. Last season most of our squad were playing as good a rugby as they have played.
“We are showing glimpses, but not reaching the heights we did last season.”