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Buoyant Cardiff Blues aren't in mood to ruin all their good work

By Michael Sadlier

Even by Welsh standards it's been quite a week, what with a great big dollop of controversy thrown into the mix regarding the future of the Heineken Cup and the Welsh regions desire to go with the Anglo-French breakaway

But then we also had the high and low emotions that have been aired around Cardiff way. Indeed, the Blues have spent the week reflecting on their astonishing 19-15 Heineken Cup win over European champions Toulon though much of that joy seemed to be lost with the mid-week confirmation that skipper Matthew Rees will be stepping away from the game for an unspecified period of time to undergo testicular surgery.

As ever, though, you're left wondering about the Blues. If only they could find a bit of consistency then they might just manage to attain that 'work in progress' tag.

Instead, the moment they are up, they somehow manage to just go on to plum new depths.

The incredible victory over Toulon was a case in point. The previous week Sam Warburton and his cohorts were just plain abject in their European opener at Exeter, a defeat which hastened the departure of their defence coach Rob Powell.

And most galling of all was the evening at the Arms Park back in late September when the Blues generously gave PRO12 whipping boys Zebre their first ever victory, an occasion of much shame and introspection for the home side.

Little surprise then that you'll currently find then down in seventh in the PRO12 table caught in a sandwich between the Dragons (sixth) and Scarlets (eighth) and a mere six points ahead of bottom side Edinburgh.

Before last weekend, coach Phil Davies and his squad – which includes Leigh Halfpenny (pictured) and the currently injured Alex Cuthbert – were embroiled in what many felt was a bit more than just another crisis for the Welsh capital's long underachieving side. Davies even went on record to claim that he hadn't lost the dressing room as the Blues faced the complete ruin of their European campaign just two games in.

But, of course, the Blues – though they played in pink last Saturday – incredibly turned things around and it came as no real surprise that Davies was reported to have been in tears in the dressing room afterwards on what was the beleaguered head coach's 50th birthday.

At least Warburton also had something positive to say again after his recent highs with the Lions on Australia and he pointed out that last weekend's seismic result was on a par with the club's Amlin Challenge Cup win back in 2010 – which seems light years away now for the capital region – when Toulon again provided the opposition.

"That's up there with one of the best wins I've ever had in a Blues jersey," Warburton claimed and nobody was heard to offer a differing opinion.

"It probably rivals the Amlin final purely because of what we came back from after Exeter," the Wales flanker added.

And with some form of follow-up to the Toulon game doubtless in mind, along with the pressing need to win a second consecutive PRO12 game, Davies has named a strong side for tonight's visit to Ravenhill.

Gethin Jenkins – an ex-Toulon player – leads them again while Warburton and number eight Robin Copeland, an Irishman who was last week's man of the match, again gets a chance to shine with his strong carrying game.

Halfpenny is also a starter which means that Ulster will have to tread warily over giving away kickable penalties as indeed will be the case with Rhys Patchell around while new Welsh squad member Cory Allen is at outside centre and sure to be brimming with confidence.

For the Blues, the overriding need for them now is to build some form again and not do their usual by ruining all their good work.

Belfast Telegraph


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