Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson insists his side will draw confidence from victories over Lyon and Toulouse earlier in the season, as they prepare for a crucial double-header against Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup.
Wales’ Capital Region visit the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday, before welcoming Steve Diamond’s side to Cardiff Arms Park for the reverse fixture on Sunday, December 17.
The Blues currently sit on top of Pool 2, and could secure qualification to the knockout stages in the next two rounds of fixtures.
Wilson wants to see his side bounce back from last week’s PRO14 defeat to Glasgow Warriors but has highlighted the threat posed by the in-form Sharks side, who go into the clash on the back of back-to-back victories in the Premiership.
“The first reminder to the boys is that we’re top of the group with nine points,” Wilson told Cardiff Blues’ official website.
“We had a good start with a bonus point win and an away win at Toulouse, which was a massive lift for all of us at the time, which led to confidence in the PRO14 and a few good wins.
“Obviously the weekend was tough following the red card, but we need to bounce straight back to draw on the confidence we had from earlier matches in this competition and take that to Sale.
“Sale are a side that are going pretty well in the Aviva Premiership at the moment, they’ve had some good results and we know, given the firepower and squad depth they’ve got, that it’s going to be a big ask but one we’re certainly motivated and confident for.”
Wilson will be without openside flanker Olly Robinson, who has returned to his parent club, Bristol, following an impressive loan spell in the Welsh capital.
With Ellis Jenkins, Sam Warburton and James Botham currently sidelined with injury, and Josh Navidi returning from an intense five-week period on international duty, Wilson admits this time of the season challenges the depth of his squad and he will have to look to Josh Turnbull and Sion Bennett to fill the void in the number seven jersey.
“Olly Robinson has been called back to Bristol which gives us another headache at seven,” added Wilson.
“He’s a Bristol player first and foremost, having been on loan with us, and he’ll go back there this week on a late request.
“He’s been outstanding for us when we needed a seven, having lost three to injury and then Josh Navidi getting selected for Wales.
“It was timely that he came on board with us and his performances have been outstanding for us. He suits the way we play and is an out-and-out seven on both sides of the ball.
“There are certain positions where we’re a little bit thread-bare and in other positions we’ve got depth and competition.
“When you come to November and December, it’s the same every year, your injury rate goes way above 20%. We’re at 25% at the moment and we’ve got to manage that and provide opportunities to players who you wouldn’t see week-in, week-out if we had everybody available.
“Josh Navidi will return but we’ll look after him off the back of four weeks of international rugby. It’s the first time he’s played that much international rugby and trained at that level, so it’s important that we don’t throw him back in too soon.
“We’ve got a couple of options who aren’t out-and-out sevens, such as Josh Turnbull, who has played there before and is a back row forward who can get around the park, and Sion Bennett, who played seven when we beat Edinburgh away last season.”