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Warburton issues rallying cry

Wales captain Sam Warburton has rallied Cardiff Blues to revive their Heineken Cup campaign against reigning European champions Toulon on Saturday.

Given that the Blues shipped 44 points at Exeter last Sunday, including six tries, Warburton and company appear to be facing mission improbable.

Toulon, in contrast, posted a half-century against Glasgow, and they will arrive at the Arms Park parading an enviable array of superstar talent led by Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Bakkies Botha and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

"For a professional team to go down by 30 points in the first-half is not acceptable," said Blues flanker Warburton, reflecting on events in Devon last weekend.

"We had a hard debrief when we got back together as a squad on Tuesday. You have got to be honest with each other and put your hand up when you make mistakes. The players owe it to each other to produce a much better performance this weekend.

"We have got nothing to lose against Toulon. The players can go out and express themselves and play pressure-free because no-one is going to be expecting anything.

"The Blues, historically, have been good in the Heineken Cup, which is why we have been seeded pretty well, and the challenge of facing the European champions is brilliant.

"I would much rather that than play someone you were expected to beat by 70 points."

The Blues, meanwhile, have reinforced their coaching team by appointing former Wales back-row forward Dale McIntosh as their new defence coach. McIntosh, 43, will move to Cardiff from Pontypridd, where he enjoyed a successful reign as head coach.

Unlike the Blues, their fellow Welsh region the Scarlets made a blistering start last weekend by beating Harlequins away from home, and they will now look to keep that momentum going against visitors Racing Metro on Saturday.

"We've got our feet on the ground, but there is no doubt last weekend's performance has boosted confidence and spirits, but it won't mean anything if we don't perform to a level against Racing," Scarlets boss Simon Easterby said.

"This is a big opportunity for us to kick on, and in front of our home crowd not fear what big sides with larger resources can bring to this tournament. If we get our house in order and we are at our best, we know we can match the top teams."

Easterby makes two changes from the Quins encounter, with wing Nick Reynolds replacing an injured Kristian Phillips and prop Jacobie Adriaanse taking over from Samson Lee, who is serving a two-week ban after being cited for stamping on Quins scrum-half Danny Care.

Gloucester rugby director Nigel Davies sends a team showing 12 changes to Thomond Park on Saturday for the Pool Six clash against Munster, opting to leave out players such as James Simpson-Daniel, Billy Twelvetrees, Freddie Burns, who is on bench duty, skipper Tom Savage and England flanker Matt Kvesic.

Only wing Jonny May and the centre pairing of Mike Tindall and Ryan Mills remain from last weekend's victory over Perpignan, with Davies handing starts to the likes of fly-half Jonny Bentley, lock Lua Lokotui and flanker Matt Cox in a team captained by Will James.

"It is a huge challenge for us. They are coming off the back of, what would be for them, a bad loss (against Edinburgh), and I'm sure they are going to come out all guns blazing," Davies said.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Pool One's unbeaten teams Leinster and Castres meet in Dublin, with Ulster - conquerors of Leicester last Friday - chasing a second successive Pool Five victory when they travel to Montpellier and Connacht visiting Zebre in Pool Three.

English challengers Northampton and Quins, meanwhile, face crucial games on Sunday after losing their opening fixtures.

Saints host the Ospreys in Pool One, while Quins face a daunting Pool Four task away to Clermont Auvergne. Elsewhere, Pool Two contenders Exeter visit Glasgow and there is a Pool Six clash at Stade Aime Giral between Perpignan and Edinburgh.


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