Cardiff take on Calvisano in a massive game where the whole crowd will not be paying full attention. As the players take on their Italian counterparts hunting the bonus point, and as big of a points difference as possible, we will all be praying for a Harlequins win in Montpellier to leave us finishing second in the pool.
Confused by how Cardiff can qualify? Well have a read of this and if you can manage to get your head around it well done!
So with that out the way, let’s focus on the game itself. Our 9-50 win over Calvisano in November was our fifth victory in five games over the Italian side, after doing the double over them in 2005/06 and 2008/09. In the last encounter at the Arms Park we came out 62-20 winners, with a scoreline like that being perfect for our hopes of qualifying this weekend. With this weekend’s visitors currently on zero points and conceding an average of 54 points per European game, while only scoring six, a big score is highly possible.
Away from European competition and Calvisano have a very impressive record, although that is more of a reflection of the poor quality in the Italian league I feel. Nevertheless, they are top of the league with only one loss all season. They have only played three domestic games since our last encounter due to a mid-season break, but they’ve won them all, including away at our old friends Rovigo, their closest rivals at the time.
Onto us and if we can play like we did in the second half against Harlequins last week then we’ll be flying past Calvisano. The speed and simplicity of our play was the most pleasing aspect, and should be too good for any semi-professional team. The defence just needs to be solid and patient, keep their discipline and wait for the turnover. Then attack with pace, get the ball wide to the quick boys and cross the try line as much as possible. It’s so easy when it’s written down.
Harlequins 34-26 Cardiff: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/harlequins-34-26-cardiff/
Danny Wilson has opted against naming a full first XV for the visit of Calvisano, but ensured that the side is more than strong enough to gain the bonus point. Top try scorer Tom James returns from illness for Blaine Scully on the wing, while Gavin Evans takes over from the rested Rey Lee Lo at 12. At half-back Gareth Anscombe makes his first start of the season to partner Tavis Knoyle, with Rhys Patchell and Lloyd Williams on the bench. A new-look front row sees Kristian Dacey rested with young Ethan Lewis starting alongisde Dillon Lewis and Gethin Jenkins, who takes over from the concussed Sam Hobbs, meanwhile behind them a brand now back five to the scrum sees Lou Reed and Jarrad Hoeata at lock, and Cam Dolan, Josh Navidi and Sam Warburton in the back row.
Good to see Warburton back in Cardiff colours, conveniently in time for the Six Nations but that’s for another day. With Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell and Aled Summerhill ready to come off the bench to score some points later in the game, and a very capable attack starting, I’m more than hopeful the bonus point will be easily wrapped up, then it’s all eyes on Montpellier. Come on Cardiff!! (and Harlequins).
Cardiff record v Calvisano: W 5 L 0
Cardiff form: WLLLLLLWLLWWLLWL
Calvisano form: WWLWWLLWWLLWL
Cardiff top try scorer: Tom James (6)
Calvisano top try scorer: Marco Susio (2)
Cardiff top points scorer: Rhys Patchell (169)
Calvisano top points scorer: Filippo Buscema (14)
*Calvisano player stats from Challenge Cup only
Thomas Charabas (FFR) – Young French referee with just the six yellow cards from his three Challenge Cup games so far. If we turn the screw on Calvisano maybe the discipline will go and the referee can unless his trigger card arm.