Cardiff Blues are gearing up for a crucial block of Guinness PRO14 fixtures, starting with next week's home clash against Conference A rivals, Glasgow Warriors.
Wales’ Capital Region will welcome the Scottish outfit to the Arms Park on Saturday, February 16 as they continue their hunt for a place on Europe’s top table next season.
The Blues clinched a vital win over Connacht at the Welsh capital last week, but a three-week gap between fixtures allowed the squad to recover last week before returning to training on Monday.
Head coach John Mulvihill is pleased that his side have been given extra time to recover and prepare ahead of what could be a season-defining period in the campaing.
“We love playing at the Arms Park, and it’s always good to play in front of our own fans. We enjoy the surface and teams can struggle to play there because control the intensity,” said Mulvihill.
“That will be something to be aware of against Glasgow, because they play on a similar pitch and have the highest ball-in-play minutes in the competition.
“They also kick the least in the competition so we need to make sure they’re coming from set-piece more than the counter attack.
“The boys took their time off really well, and that means we’ve been able to bounce into this week. We had a really good session today, which was upbeat, on Thursday we’ll be starting our preparations for Glasgow and then we have an opposed session against Dragons on Friday.
“The break came at a really good time for us, because the next block of games is really crucial for us. We probably need to pick up 10-12 points over the next three games, and we start that with Glasgow.
“They’re a team that have scored an average of 30 points against us this season, and on average in the Guinness PRO14 we only concede an average of 19 points per game.
“There’s a significant difference there compared to other teams, so we need to pick and prepare a team that will win this game at the Arms Park. It’s a crucial start to the block.
“We have two games at home in this block, but also have a really tough assignment at Edinburgh, while Kings will come here looking to play a really high-tempo game.”
The Australian has also been encouraged by his side’s form in recent weeks, with a number of youngsters making an impact in important first team matches.
Mulvihill said: “We’ve given a lot of boys an opportunity throughout the year. We’ve only had a few injuries, and have a few away on international duty, but the rest of the boys are stepping up really well.
“The likes of Rhys Carré and Harri Millard have really taken those opportunities really well, and it’s important for those guys to be rewarded.
“Since we played Saracens back-to-back in the Heineken Champions Cup, there has been a mentality change in both attack and defence.
“We’ve probably only let ourselves down once since then, against Ospreys, where we trained too hard during the week after an intense, physical game against Scarlets the week before.”
The race for Heineken Champions Cup qualification is on, as Cardiff Blues kick off a crucial block of Guinness PRO14 fixtures by welcoming Glasgow Warriors to the Welsh capital on Saturday, February 16. Make sure you snap up your tickets and #PackCAP