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Blues flying the Magners League flag

Guinness PRO12 Editor

18 May 2010

The Magners League Grand Final may be on the horizon but one team not involved in that mouth-watering showdown could still be celebrating this weekend.

While Leinster and the Ospreys prepare for what should be a fasciniting end to the Magners League season at the RDS a week on Saturday, fellow Celts Cardiff Blues are getting ready for a European final on French soil.

The Blues narrowly missed out on a Magners League Play-Off place after they finished fifth in the table but they will be flying the flag for the league in continental competition when they take on Toulon in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final on Sunday.

“Naturally I am disappointed we did not qualify for the Magners League semi-finals,” said Blues boss Dai Young, whose side beat Munster 13-12 in Round 18 when an eight-point win would have been enough to secure a Play-Off place.

“However, the advantage of not qualifying meant we have been able to concentrate on the Amlin Challenge Cup final. The rest will do us good and really ignite the appetite to go on and achieve something this year.

“We are quite proud of our efforts in Europe and we would love to come away with another European win and the Amlin Challenge Cup title. It would great for the players to get what they deserve.

“We are really looking forward to it, and, after a couple of days rest, there is no reason why we should not be charging on full batteries.”

Toulon finished ninth in the 2008/09 Top 14 but, under new head coach Philippe Saint-Andre and with the arrival of some big name stars such as Jonny Wilkinson, Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Sebastien Bruno, they have shot up seven places.

And while they may not have the European pedigree of Magners League semi-finalists Leinster or Munster, the big-spending French side have been one of the continent’s most impressive teams this term.

But despite the star quality of Sunday’s opposition, Young knows the Blues themselves have plenty of international experience and enough game breakers to worry even the very best sides around.

“We are very respectful of them and we know that if we give them the space and time they could carve us up so we are determined not to give them that space and time and really make every effort to impose our game on them,” added Young.

“They certainly have the budget to buy most players they want. They have got world stars but we are hoping we can get amongst them and we have some real quality players ourselves.

“They could pick one world star and if not him they could pick another world star and we know they have quality so, while we will concentrate on them as much as we can, I believe it is about us bringing our game and imposing ourselves.

“While we know we face a massive challenge, we have set our stall out in only losing two games in Europe in two seasons and now we are in a final. 

“It is certainly a very big occasion and one the players, management and supporters are looking forward to.”

A Blues triumph in Marseilles would ensure the Magners League has had a European winner in each of the last three seasons after Munster and Leinster charged to Heineken Cup glory in 2008 and 2009 respectively.