Olly Robinson believes Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs will provide the perfect high-quality opposition needed for Cardiff Blues' pre-season preparations.
John Mulvihill’s side kick off the season at the Arms Park on Saturday, as they welcome Matt O’Connor’s Tigers side to the Welsh capital for a friendly (KO 2.30pm)
The following week, the Blues travel to Sandy Park, where they take on Gallagher Premiership finalists, Exeter Chiefs, which will be the final fixture ahead of the Guinness PRO14 opener against Leinster on Friday, August 31.
Robinson, who joined the Cardiff Arms Park-outfit last season following a successful short-term loan, hopes momentum from the Challenge Cup victory in May will give his side a boost heading into the new campaign.
“I think the pre-season games we have lined up is brilliant. We’re facing Leicester, who are historically one of the most successful professional rugby sides,” said the back row.
“Then we’re coming up against Exeter who, over the last couple of years, have been the best side in England. It’s good to challenge ourselves before going into Leinster, which will be a really tough game.
“There are no easy games in rugby anymore, everyone is very competitive, so it will be good for us to have a hit out against these sides, who are top professionals.
“Pre-season has been really good so far. It’s been really intense, even though it’s been a relatively short pre-season as we finished last season so late.
“It’s been intense, there’s been a lot of running but it’s been good fun!
“It’s crucial that we build on last season’s success. I think it’s very easy, after success, to let your standards slip a little bit.
“It’s about keeping our own standards and keeping our performances where they worked towards the back-end of last season, but also making some things a little bit better to try to push the side forward.
“Every team comes away from pre-season thinking they’re the best side in the world, but it’s will be key to translate what we’ve been doing in training onto the pitch.”
Wales’ Capital Region are set to return to the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time in five years, having secured a place via the Guinness PRO14.
Robinson is excited by the potential within the squad and insists his side can compete on both domestic and European fronts this season,
Robinson said: “The beauty of the Guinness PRO14 play-off spots, is that you’re only two or three games away from winning silverware. In knockout rugby, as we proved during the back-end of last season, winning can become a habit and if we can get into that habit and force ourselves into the top six, then we’re in with a chance.
“Momentum is massive in rugby and a lot of the games last season came down to the last five minutes or the last play of the game, and we’re very aware they could’ve easily gone another way, and that’s rugby for you.
“It’s down to us to make sure we translate our performances to being more ruthless on the pitch and put sides away earlier.”
“The Leinster match is going to be a really tough match, but they’re the sides you want to play against. The best of the best in Europe.
“At the end of the day, you have to remember that teams like this are only 15 human beings. Very good rugby players but it’s about us making sure we put our stamp on the game and not be over-awed by the teams coming up against us.
“You look at the age profile of our players. Young players like Jarrod Evans at outside half, who’s brilliant, Set Davies, Tomos Williams, Dillon Lewis. They’re young lads and it’s therefore an exciting time to be both a Cardiff Blues player and supporter.”
Tickets for Saturday's first pre-season clash against Leicester Tigers are still available HERE