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Blues Ready For Biarritz - Blair

2nd December 2008

Cardiff Blues are one of only two teams who can claim 10 from 10 from the opening two rounds and full back Ben Blair, the tournament’s leading scorer so far with 38 points, is adamant they will need back-to-back results against Biarritz Olympique to keep their Heineken Cup quarter-final qualification hopes burning brightly.

Try bonus point wins at Rugby Calvisano and against Gloucester Rugby at the Millennium Stadium have pushed the Blues five points clear of Biarritz at the top of Pool 6 but Blair, capped six times by the All Blacks, is wary of the danger the French club can pose at the Arms Park on Friday night.

The Blues’ sole success against Biarritz is a 21-20 home win in 2003/04, and both clubs go into the crucial middle rounds of matches on the backs of domestic defeats.

“We were outplayed – they got a bit of a sniff early on while we simply didn’t get going,” said Blair, a Super 12 winner with Crusaders and Ranfurly Shield victor with Canterbury, of the 28-0 Magners League reverse at Glasgow Warriors while Biarritz were going down 32-13 at home to Stade Français Paris in the Top 14 Orange.   

“But I don’t think it will have much of a bearing on the Biarritz matches as we will be making so many changes – other than re-focussing the boys on what we need to do over the next two weekends and preparing accordingly.

“The Heineken Cup is such a great tournament because you get to play new teams, those you only come up against once every now and again, and that makes the games both hugely important and enjoyable.

“And we have made a really good start to this season’s tournament because while two maximum points is as good as it gets, on top of that the win against Gloucester was probably one of our best performances for a number of years.

“The aim for us now has to be two from two against Biarritz which would put us in a good position when we have to go to Kingsholm in January. That said, top French sides are always dangerous and Biarritz went all the way to the 2006 Heineken Cup final.
“We have not really studied them in any great depth so far, we will be doing that this week, but we know a fair bit about their key players like Dimitri Yachvili, Jerome Thion and Damien Traille.

“Naturally it will be great to have the international boys back with the club although it was a real shock to hear about the extent of Jamie’s (Roberts) injury which is a great shame for him as things were going so well and we cannot afford injuries to our big players.

“However, we have been developing a few youngsters like Jamie and Leigh Halfpenny, who have really come through superbly, while Andy Powell has certainly taken his opportunity well in the absence of the injured Xavier Rush.

“Wales’ great win over Australia means our Test players will be coming back on a high but they now face two tough games for the club after a tough autumn series.

“It is great to be two from two – and it promises to be a great occasion on Friday night – but these are really huge weeks for us and the Biarritz games have been at the back of our minds for a fair time now.”

Tickets are still on general sale for the game, although Grandstand tickets are almost sold out. Buy in advance to avoid long queues on the day of the game

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Biarritz Olympique – 10th Top 14 Orange    

TOP 14 ROUND 1 W Biarritz 29-22 Bourgoin
TOP 14 ROUND 2 W Biarritz 32-17 Castres
TOP 14 ROUND 3 L Toulouse  20-6 Biarritz
TOP 14 ROUND 4 W Biarritz 24-5 Brive
TOP 14 ROUND 5 L Dax  30-18 Biarritz
TOP 14 ROUND 6 L Clermont  32-6 Biarritz
TOP 14 ROUND 7 W Biarritz 46-3 Montpellier
HC ROUND 1 L Gloucester 22-10 Biarritz
HC ROUND 2 W Biarritz 41-10 Calvisano
TOP 14 ROUND 8 W Mont de Marsan  6-33 Biarritz
TOP 14 ROUND 9 L Biarritz 12-14 Bayonne
TOP 14 ROUND 10 L Perpignan  27-12 Biarritz
TOP 14 ROUND 11 L Toulon  10-5 Biarritz
TOP 14 ROUND 12 L Biarritz 13-32 Stade Français
Cardiff Blues – 8th Magners League      
ML ROUND 1 D Cardiff Blues  16-16 Leinster
ML ROUND 2 L Ospreys  32-10 Cardiff Blues
ML ROUND 3 W Cardiff Blues  16-15 Ulster
ML ROUND 4 L Munster  28-20 Cardiff Blues
ML ROUND 5 W Cardiff Blues  58-0 Connacht
EDF ROUND 1 W Sale  17-18 Cardiff Blues
HC ROUND 1 W Calvisano 20-56 Cardiff Blues
HC ROUND 2 W Cardiff Blues  37-24 Gloucester
EDF ROUND 2 W Cardiff Blues  23-9 Leicester
EDF ROUND 3 W Cardiff Blues  24-18 Bath
ML ROUND 6 L Glasgow  28-0 Cardiff Blues
Gloucester Rugby – 2nd Guinness Premiership   
GP ROUND 1 L Gloucester 8-20 Leicester
GP ROUND 2 W Bath  17-21 Gloucester
GP ROUND 3 W Gloucester 24-20 Harlequins
GP ROUND 4 L Sale  23-9 Gloucester
GP ROUND 5 W Gloucester 39-23 Newcastle
EDF ROUND 1 W Gloucester 24-19 Wasps
HC ROUND 1 W Gloucester 22-10 Biarritz
HC ROUND 2 L Cardiff Blues  37-24 Gloucester
EDF ROUND 2 W Gloucester 25-20 Dragons
EDF ROUND 3 W Newcastle  10-11 Gloucester
GP ROUND 6 W Saracens  21-25 Gloucester
GP ROUND 7 W Gloucester 39-10 Bristol
GP ROUND 8 W Gloucester 33-10 Northampton
Rugby Calvisano – 5th Super 10    
S10 Round 1 W Calvisano 20-13 Roma Olimpic
S10 Round 2 L Rovigo  46-16 Calvisano
S10 Round 3 W Almaviva  20-28 Calvisano
S10 Round 4 W Calvisano 42-0 GRAN Parma
HC ROUND 1 L Calvisano 20-56 Cardiff Blues
HC ROUND 2 L Biarritz 41-10 Calvisano
S10 Round 5 L Venezia  36-24 Calvisano
S10 Round 6 W Calvisano 19-3 Petrarca
S10 Round 7 W Viadana  20-6 Calvisano

Ben Blair     Cardiff Blues   38
Toby Flood     Leicester Tigers   31
Chris Malone    Harlequins    31
Lionel Beauxis    Stade Français Paris  29
Felipe Contepomi    Leinster    28
Luke McAlister    Sale Sharks    28
Petre Mitu     Montauban    26
Ronan O'Gara    Munster    25
David Skrela     Toulouse    25
Brock James    ASM Clermont Auvergne  24
Olly Barkley     Gloucester Rugby   23
James Arlidge    Newport Gwent Dragons  20
Jérôme Porical    Perpignan    20

Leigh Halfpenny    Cardiff Blues   3
Johne Murphy    Leicester Tigers   3
Brian O'Driscoll    Leinster    3