Cardiff Blues are determined not to become the first victims of Aironi Rugby in the Magners League this weekend.
Dai Young’s men take on the Magners League newcomers this Friday night looking for a repeat of their 20-3 victory over the same opposition at the Stadio Zaffanella back in October.
After four losses in their previous five Magners League and European Cup matches, the Blues got back to winning ways with a hard fought 27-25 triumph over reining champions Ospreys on New Year’s Eve.
Now the Welsh region are hoping to climb back into the coveted Play-Off positions with an eighth Magners League win of the season as they continue their chase for a first Celtic crown.
We caught up with Andries Pretorius, Casey Laulala and Paul Tito as they promoted their Italian job, serving customers in Jamie’s Italian restaurant in the Welsh capital in a bid to build on last week’s record crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Here’s what the trio had to say about Friday’s must-win match…
Blues skipper Paul Titio
“Mentally this will show where we are as players and as a team. We all know we have to win games like this one against Aironi. This is our test of our professionalism.
“Aironi is a home game and we haven’t really performed that well at home – we lost to the Scarlets and Ulster – and that is disappointing.
“The younger guys like Sam Warburton and Andries Pretorius showed us the way to go against the Ospreys. They were both outstanding and that is what we all have to do against Aironi.
“We showed our mettle when we went out there earlier in the season on the back of a couple of losses. Dai (Young) put the heat on all of us in the pre-match talk before that game and told us all a few home truths.
“We won 20-3 out there and that is a good result. We know we have to roll our sleeves up front because we all know what is coming.
Paul Tito expects a huge lineout battle on Friday night
“They will be looking for a scalp and be coming over here with nothing to lose. They will take on our scrum and drive their lineouts at us. I saw their game against Treviso and they drove nearly every lineout against each other. But we handled them quite well out there so we know we can do that. It’s just all about upstairs when you play teams like this.
“They have a good pack but we have to match them and give some decent ball to our backs because we know they can hurt anyone.
“We just need to win ball. We have guys like Jamie Roberts, Casey Laulala, Richard Mustoe and Tom James who are all dangerous if we can give them the ball.
“It’s going to be a tough day at the office but on our day we can beat teams like this. We are one place off the top four, have a game in hand and there are no excuses this weekend – we have to win.”
Casey Laulala knows the Blues won't have it easy against Aironi
New Zealand centre Casey Laulala
“We were pleased with the way we played last week, particularly in the first half.
“Obviously, the Ospreys came back in the second half but we held on. Our defence was firm and it was a really encouraging performance.
“We needed that after the last couple of weeks and it will give us a bit of confidence.
“We now want to build on it against Aironi. But we aren’t taking Aironi for granted. It was a massive result for them to beat Biarritz.
“They’re a really tough team who make their first-up tackles and work hard at the breakdown.
“Hopefully, we can take them on physically in the middle and force them to come in, which would give us space outside to attack.”
Young South African flanker Andries Pretorius
“Aironi were very good the last time we played them, especially up front.
“We know we have to work hard, work on our driving lineout and stop theirs. It’s a strength of theirs, as they showed against the Dragons.
“We need to eliminate them there, work hard as a unit and have them adapt to our style of play rather than us to theirs.
“I’m absolutely loving it at the moment. It’s always nice as a youngster just to get some time on the field.
“With guys like Xavier Rush and Ma’ama Molitika around, you can only go one way. Sam Warburton is absolutely phenomenal and I’m learning from him as well.
“That’s what you want in a competitive environment – you want to progress. A guy like Sam is always going to be someone who stands out so you’ve got to try and match that.”