Blues out to overturn Castres
October 14, 2010
Casey Laulala was vital to Cardiff's opening win © Getty Images
Both Castres and Cardiff Blues have had plenty to mull over this week as they prepare to go head-to-head in the Heineken Cup at the Stade Pierre Antoine on Friday night.
The French side slipped to a narrow away defeat against Northampton, while the Blues spluttered their way past Edinburgh in Cardiff - doing little that would strike fear into the hearts of their hosts in round two.
Castres are a rugged, powerful side and will take no prisoners, meaning that Dai Young's charges must show a huge increase in precision and physicality at the breakdown and an added willingness to use their dangerous strike runners out wide. An away win would put the cat among the pigeons but the Blues can only reflect on two Heineken Cup wins in France - against Biarritz and Bourgoin - coupled with last season's Amlin Challenge Cup win over Toulon in Marseille.
Castres - Player to Watch: So much of Castres' good work comes from their pack and they have been ably led by Samoan lock Joe Tekori, who scored a brilliant individual try against Northampton last weekend.
Castres - Team News: The home side have called on most of their big names, including goal-kicking fullback Romain Teulet, centre Seremaia Bai, prop Luc Ducalcon, hooker Benjamin Kayser and French international winger Marc Andreu.
Cardiff Blues - Player to Watch: With Martyn Williams suspended, Sam Warburton has a chance to stake his claim for the Wales No.7 jersey. Quick and powerful, Warburton offers contrasting skills to the wily Williams and could be a thorn in the side for Castres. Also keep an eye on Casey Laulala in the centre - a rare high point against Edinburgh with ball in hand.
Cardiff Blues - Team News: Dan Parks miss out through injury, with Ceri Sweeney drafted in at fly-half. Loose-head Gethin Jenkins was expected to join Parks on the injured list with an ankle problem but has been named in the front-row. Tom Shanklin has recovered from a head knock and starts alongside last weekend's Man of the Match Casey Laulala in midfield.
Key Battle: The Blues were a long way from their best last weekend and suffered due to an off day from Parks. Sweeney is more attuned to their open style of play and could cause problems for opposite number Cameron McIntyre.
Trivia: During the 2008-09 season, in which they were eliminated by Leicester Tigers at the semi-final stage after a penalty shootout, Cardiff became only the sixth team to complete the Heineken Cup Pool stage unbeaten.
Stats: Ben Blair reclaims the kicking duties from Parks this weekend and can add to his record tally of points for the Blues in Europe. His total currently sits at 279 points.
"Castres are typically French side, we know how tough it's going to be, they'll be really physical especially around the rucks and mauls. They will pick and go a lot, have big ball carriers, good runners behind and a good goal-kicker. It's a massive challenge but one we feel we can win if we play to our normal standards." - Cardiff Blues boss Dai Young
Prediction: This one is almost too close to call. The Blues showed last season that they can win on the road, but their record in France remains a poor one. Castres to pinch it and a bonus-point for the visitors.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen
Following a weekend where Wales suffered more heartbreak against Australia and the Aviva Premiership showed its class, the Monday Maul looks back at some of the key talking points