Davies hopes to avoid Euro Blues
Thu, 02 Jan 2014 08:12
The challenge does not get any bigger than this
Director of Rugby Phil Davies saluted his Cardiff Blues after their derby day heroics over Newport Gwent Dragons and then immediately turned his attention to the massive European challenge against Toulon.
Blues return to the European Cup a week on Saturday (January 11) when they travel to Nice to face champions Toulon.
The region is right in the middle of a red-hot race to qualify from Pool 2 and just two points behind the French giants.
And Davies believes going to the south of France - and the backyard of the reigning champions - will be a huge test that his side will relish.
"It's fantastic and a game we are all looking forward to now," he said
"We've worked exceptionally hard to get ourselves back into the group and the challenge does not get any bigger than this.
"We are going to have to go up a few levels next week, if that is possible, and we have got to prepare well. It's an exciting fixture for us and we will all look forward to it.
"We will assess Rhys [Patchell] and see how he is," added Davies, who watched his young flyhalf star helped off in the first half of the 21-13 win over Dragons.
"It's great to have Gethin back, but huge credit to the way Sam Hobbs has played. We have got a bit more depth there with young Tom Davies too.
"We have got to see if we can get Patch patched up if we can. But if not Gareth [Davies] will be there and we have got confidence in him and see how we go. He has done a fantastic job for us this season and he came on here against Toulon and won us the game.
"We know we have got a big job ahead of us, but Gareth has got the ability to play with his handling skills and plays flat to the line. It's about getting him to show what he can do and lead the team around the pitch."
Davies admitted the derby day success over the Dragons was a 'valuable' one for his Blues as they opened 2014 with a 21-13 win at a wet and windy Arms Park.
The result avenged the Pro12 defeat at Rodney Parade less than a week ago, but for Davies it was more about starting the New Year on the front foot.
He said: "It was a valuable win for us. It was valuable that we won and it was valuable that we kept the bonus point away from them.
"It wasn't a pretty win. It was interesting to watch at times, but what was evident was the tenacity and control we showed up front, in the second half in particular.
"The first 30 minutes of the game was a bit more like what we wanted to achieve, but after that things went a little bit wayward.
"But what we did do in the second half was get control of the ball up front. We carried hard off the edges and built pressure for Leigh to kick the goals. But we can be tidier than that.
"The result was all-important today," he added. "We have got a bit to do in the league and we know that, but slowly but surely we have been getting better and it's about control of the ball.
"We are getting plenty of possession, when we get the opportunities we have got to finish them off. We will keep building the player's confidence and skills to be able to do that."
Davies gave special praise to the home pack and believed all the replacements made an impact.
"I thought Josh Navidi was magnificent today and I thought Ellis Jenkins was when he came on too," he said.
"Sam Hobbs has been leading us well and Gethin Jenkins, when he comes on with his experience, made an impact. I thought the replacements added to us.
"I feel it is a sign of our growing maturity as a team and forward pack that we showed control at key periods."
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