Getting going again, again

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It’s fair to say that the 2021/22 United Rugby Championship season has been a bit of a mess from a Cardiff point-of-view thus far, to the point that some may even need reminding of the current state of play.

The Blue and Blacks currently sit 11th in the league after an opening run of five games through September and October which saw us win three and lose twice, before the loss away at Edinburgh and the victory over Leinster in January.

Of course between that Dai Young’s men had the nightmare scenario of being stuck in South Africa as the UK Government imposed travel restrictions when the omicron variant hit, then having to quarantine when they got home, before covid cases caused the postponement of festive derbies against Scarlets and Dragons, respectively.

The encounter with Edinburgh was more like a pre-season friendly in many respects as the campaign whirred into life again, and while a good performance against Harlequins in the Heineken Champions Cup was followed by the superb showing to earn a first win over Leinster in 11 years, the three-week gap between then and now means it’s a case of getting started once more for Cardiff.

A run of nine games in 10 weeks awaits the Blue and Blacks, starting with what will likely be five games impacted by international call-ups, a crucial set of fixtures by the end of which we will know exactly where we stand in terms of challenging in the Welsh Shield and for the top eight in the league.

It all starts on Friday night as Zebre arrive at the Arms Park, planted to the bottom of the table having lost all seven of their games so far. A perfect opportunity to place a marker with a performance and do what we’ve only done once at this point in the campaign; secure a try bonus point.

Often there are warnings of over-confidence or perhaps a struggle with placing pressure on ourselves to reach that four try mark when we go up against an Italian side at home, but this weekend the only target is to maintain the standards set against Quins and Leinster. That is the style of rugby we want to play, and is close to the results we want to be getting, so consistently churning that out will lead to positive scorelines.

From there it’s four tough games away at Ulster, then making a second trip to South Africa to hopefully play the Lions and Stormers this time, followed by hosting Glasgow. With the majority of our Wales contingent missing, and perhaps some players on the standby list being left at home for the journey to the southern hemisphere, it’ll be a test of the wider squad.

If we can bag one win from those games and a bonus point or two to put our points total at around 28/29 going into a double header against the Scarlets then we should be right in the hunt for one of three play-off places and Heineken Cup qualification behind the breakaway pack of Leinster, Ulster, Munster, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

On the back of that with our full squad available and some big Welsh derbies on the horizon it’s all to play for, but these next few weeks are where campaigns either get on track or fall off the rails. Hopefully Cardiff can carry the momentum of January through to the spring.

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