Players and coaches from Cardiff Blues tell us exactly how they’re feeling ahead of Saturday’s derby match against the Dragons.
The Blues kicked off their Magners League season with a convincing display in their 34-23 victory over Edinburgh, reversing a disappointing 22-21 loss when the two sides met at the same stage last term.
The Welsh side followed up that victory with defeat to Leinster last weekend, with the Blues recovering from a poor first half to fight back into the lead in Dublin before finally going down by 11 points to last season’s beaten finalists.
Dai Young’s side lifted the Amlin Challenge Cup last season, defeating French side RC Toulon in the final to bring home a second piece of silverware in as many years following their success in the Anglo-Welsh competition in 2008/09.
The Blues will now be looking to improve on their fifth-place finish in last season’s Magners League and, having missed out on the inaugural Play-Offs by just a single point, everyone at the region knows that each weekend could play a crucial part in achieving that aim.
We spoke to forwards coach Justin Burnell and wing cum full back Chris Czekaj, as well as Blues fly-half and former Dragon Ceri Sweeney, ahead of the Dragons’ visit to the Cardiff City Stadium.
Here’s what they had to say…
Forwards coach Justin Burnell
“It’s a big game, it’s a derby match, everyone wants to win a derby match and we will be up for it and going all guns blazing.
“The scrum was an area of weakness out in Leinster and against the Dragons we will be looking to put it right and get a platform into our game. We are looking for our scrum to be a dominating factor.
“Against Glasgow they showed good innovation and showed that when the chips are down they had the fighting spirit. That’s something they had last year and they are looking to build on that so it should be an exciting game.
“Scott Morgan has made a big impression there, he has dominated the lineout for them and Robin (Sowden-Taylor) is proving how good a player he is.
“There will always be some points to prove, they will be trying to show us we shouldn’t have let them go and it adds some spice to the game.
“Morgan has made nice niche for himself in the Dragons in the set piece. He has dominated that for them and had some good praise for it, so obviously he will be someone we will be looking out for.
“He always gave 120% with us and has good friends here as well as the coaches but hopefully we will get the better of him.
Chris Czekaj trys to stop Leinster's Shane Jennings from scoring
Blues flyer Chris Czekaj
“Derby games are always a bit better and you get a few more nerves. It's a huge game that we want to win and then there's also the competition for international honours.
“Aled Brew is a very good player. I know him pretty well having played in the age groups with him. He is a strong runner and gets through a lot of work around the pitch.
“It’s unusual to play them in pre-season and to get them early in the year. We got the win last time and go in one up and they will want to change that when they come here.
“We both have our warm up games under our belts so it could be a completely different outcome this time round.”
The Blues fought back in Dublin but were eventually beaten 34-23
Former Dragon Ceri Sweeney
“The Dragons played well on weekend. They were quite physical and I don’t think they ever looked like losing. Jason Tovey went off early which could have had a big influence on the game but Matthew (Jones) came on and really steered the ship and he went really well.
“Matthew's a good boy, he’s been away in England for couple of years and the reports that came back from Worcester at the end of last season said he was playing well and he has taken his chance to come back home and is a good addition to the team down there.
“Aled Brew is their big player. He is a big ball carrier for them and when I have played with him, I always tried to bring him into the game as much as I could as he is a confidence player and when he makes a break early on he’s a handful throughout.
“I think upfront they pose big threat with the lineout. They have got Scott (Morgan) and Robin (Sowden-Taylor) and, coming here this weekend, they have got a point to prove.
“Scott organises the lineout well and you know what you get with Robin. He is tenacious, good in the tackle area and disruptive. They have threats all around the park but we have to concentrate on ourselves and, like on Saturday, when we get it right it goes well. It’s just about taking the small mistakes out of our game.
“You always want to show up against your former team and show them what they are missing and I am no different.”