By Steve Matthews
November 3 2016
It's always tough travelling to Italy, but Coach Danny Wilson has picked a strong side, bolstered by six returning Internationals to play Treviso on Friday. Should the team cast off the memories of recent below par performances, there should only be one winner.
“We pick ourselves up and we go again,” said someone, once, and that’s exactly what Cardiff Blues have to do this weekend. Following three successive defeats in the Guiness Pro 12, Cardiff Blues now face the daunting prospect of a visit to Italy.
Two defeats and a draw in their last three visits suggest this won’t be an easy game whatsoever, but there has been more expectation than hope with Danny Wilson at the helm, even with the recent slump in form in the domestic competition.
The worrying thing for Cardiff at the moment is the manner of recent defeats. Against the Ospreys the team were handed a real tuning in fairness, with the intensity a way off what has come to be expected during Wilson’s tenure.
Follow that up with the defeat against the Scarlets, where defensively we were shoddy, our lineout mal-functioned to an alarming degree and for much of the game we were physically out-muscled when it really mattered, the outlook for the weekend is pretty bleak.
At the squad announcement though, Danny Wilson’s focus was enlightening. “We have worked on having a bit more urgency in attack and defence getting into our attacking shape a bit quicker than against the Scarlets and likewise into our defensive positions. Treviso are a different proposition at home to what they are away, you only get a grip of that once you experience it. They are a tough side to beat at their place.”
One of the key areas of the Cardiff Blues’ game lacking recently has seemed to have been urgency, and it’s so important this week that the team rectify that. What will most likely greet the team at the Stadio Monigo will be an Italian side eager to physically dominate. There can’t be any repeat of what has appeared to have been a “soft underbelly” on show in recent times – in that way ruin lies.
The start to the Cardiff Blues season was marked by an intensity and a physicality that teams often struggled to live with. There were still some worries about defensive capability, but overall, the team looked hungry. They looked to have shorn up the other fundamentals of the game – scrum, lineout and breakdown - pretty well, and the influence of new Backs and Attack coach Matt Sherratt was immediately apparent. They looked to be a “team,” something lacking in recent memory, albeit one still with plenty to work on.
It’s that feel that Danny Wilson will want to recapture I’m sure. The line out will have had plenty of work this week and the prowling Defence Coach Graham Steadman, would have also earned his corn. Back to Basics is probably an over-used term, but I believe that is what this week is all about.
With six of the seven Internationals going straight back into the starting line-up, one would hope that ballast would immediately improve things. In the front row Matthew Rees starts as skipper, flanked by Gill and Andrews. In the second row, Hoeata returns to partner Earle. That front five looks pretty good, if they can get it right.
In the back row it’s heartening to see Sam Warburton start with Ellis Jenkins either side of Macauley Cook, a player who rarely lets anyone down.
In the backs, Lloyd Williams partners Steve Shingler, with a back three of Matthew Morgan, who endured a torrid game last Friday and Blaine Scully along with young debutant Rhun Williams. Ray Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo make up the rest of the team.
All in all, that looks like a very strong team – albeit with players who haven’t played together too much. But there is absolutely no reason why they can’t do well, should they put aside recent disappointments and concentrate on the small things. It’s unlikely the team will get run off the park, but should they not front up, then it could be a torrid afternoon. The old clichés about quietening the crowd and meeting fire with fire are relevant here though. Treviso are capable of causing an upset – with teak strong forwards and some exciting runners behind, the danger is plain to see.
But as previously suggested, tomorrow is all about sweating the small stuff. Re-jigging the lineout so that it becomes a platform again, rather than a worry. Not being bested at the breakdown as they have been in the two previous games. Being focussed and accurate in thought and deed, and ensuring that they play their own individual parts to their best. Should they do that, then the win will take care of itself. Pointless putting the opposition’s threat ahead of your own. There is enough talent and ability in that team to come away with a good win. Responsibility lies with the players now – Danny Wilson and the coaching team would have done their bit this week.
Good luck to all involved tomorrow, here’s hoping for a good result.
Treviso: Jayden Hayward, Michael Tagicakibau, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi (captain ), Angelo Esposito, Ian McKinley, Tito Tebaldi, Marco Barbini, Abraham Steyn, Marco Lazzaroni, Dean Budd, Filippo Gerosa, Simone Ferrari, Luca Bigi, Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: Ornel Gega, Alberto De Marchi, Cherif Traore, Marco Fuser, Francesco Minto, Edoardo Gori, Tommaso Allan, Luke McLean
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Rhun Williams; Steve Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill, Matthew Rees (captain), Scott Andrews, George Earle, Jarrad Hoeata, Sam Warburton, Ellis Jenkins, Macauley Cook
Replacements: Kris Dacey, Brad Thyer, Dillon, Lewis, James Down, Seb Davies, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Dan Fish
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Dewi Phillips (WRU), Andrea Piardi (FIR)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (FIR)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU
My biggest concern is actually Shingler. He's a very likeable player and it's possible his distribution is actually better than Anscombe's. Those centres could have a great night running onto his passes.
But I think he also has a tendency to panic and lose that bit of authority you want your ten to have. And I remember that kast season, Patch losing the plot contributed to us losing in treviso.
If Shingler has a good game, I think we'll be fine and may even be comfortable.