Danny Wilson insists Saturday's Challenge Cup semi final against Pau is a "massive opportunity" for the entire Cardiff Blues region, as they look to book a place in May's final in Bilbao.
The winners of Saturday’s clash at the Arms Park will face Newcastle Falcons or Gloucester on May 11 at San Mamés Stadium, the home of La Liga giants, Athletic Bilbao.
Experienced international players such as Colin Slade, Tom Taylor, Stefan Armitage and Conrad Smith are expected to be in Pau’s ranks as they visit the Welsh capital for a second consecutive season.
Following a recent run of impressive form, the Cardiff Blues head coach believes his side can be confident heading into the encounter, but is well aware of the strength that Simon Mannix’s side possess.
“For us as a group, and for the region as a whole, it’s a massive opportunity to go and have a big day out in an European final, which we’re all extremely motivated by,” said Wilson.
“Now we have a chance to do something special, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves.
“The opposition we’re facing is a very strong one but we’re at the Arms Park, hopefully a packed-out Arms Park, with a derby feel about it and those are the days and occasions that we want to be part of.
“It’s a good side and a star-studded side, but our form over the last three months has been right up there and hopefully we can keep that going on Saturday.
“There will be a big atmosphere, a lot of nerves and both sides will be looking to bring the physicality that you need early on to set the tone. That physical battle will have a major part in who can get over the line and get the win.”
Wales’ Capital Region head into the semi final on the back of a bonus point victory over Southern Kings at Port Elizabeth, which sealed the Blues’ return to the Champions Cup next season.
Wilson believes that reaching their PRO14 target with a game to spare can give his side a boost in preparation and mentality ahead of Saturday.
Wilson said: “The meeting we’ve had today was about being back into cup rugby, we’re into a semi final and potentially having a little bit of pressure off after reaching our goal with a another league game to play. Therefore, we can get really focused and motivated by this game.
“Winning on Saturday was huge for us. Going to win at Kings and getting six points out in South Africa, over the two games, was really important for us to qualify for Europe.
“The first thing that does is giving everyone a confidence lift and, in a way, taking a bit of pressure off in terms not needing to worry about Champions Cup, that’s done.
“That kind of trip to South Africa has its pluses and minuses in terms of preparation for a semi final.
"The minuses is obviously the travel and everything that comes with that, but the major plus is the boys have been able to spend time together, in each other’s company doing things outside of rugby.
"Hopefully that will have a team bonding effect just before a massive game like we have on Saturday.”
Tickets for Cardiff Blues v Pau in the semi-final of the European Challenge Cup remain available on a limited basis and can be purchased by clicking here or calling 029 20 302030