James Botham believes Cardiff have proved some critics wrong this season but he is well aware Leinster pose one of the greatest challenges in the game.
The flanker second start since returning from an elbow injury as Cardiff turn attention to the BKT United Rugby Championship.
It is the final fixture in a relentless block of 10 matches on the bounce and reflecting on the season so far, Botham believes significant progress has been made.
He said: “I think a lot of people were looking down on us at the start of the year,” says the 24-year-old flanker.
“You can look at one or two negatives, but the general overall theme of the season has been positive. A lot of the boys have come through and I think we have put a lot of critics to bed, really.
“We had a lot to prove coming back from the last season, obviously with what’s going on with contracts etc there’s still a lot to prove, and the performances should only go up.
“But I’d like to think this is a new Cardiff and for people to think of us this season and not dwell on the past.”
Cardiff go into the encounter on the back of a tricky period in which they won three European encounters, snatched a last-gasp winner against the Dragons but gone down fighting against the Scarlets, Ospreys and most recently Brive in the final pool game of the Challenge Cup,
They remain the highest-placed Welsh team in the URC but the gap has been closed and they now face unbeaten Leinster at the RDS.
“The RDS is one of the most difficult places to go in European rugby, they have made it into fortress, so we know we will have to be at our best,” says Botham.
“They are so strong across the whole squad and there will be players coming into that team who will be eager to impress much like our boys.
“They are strong in several aeras of the game, so we will have to make sure all the parts of our game come together if we are to get anything from Dublin.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us, we know that even with all the internationals that are not involved they will still be very strong.
“They have got such a strength in depth it doesn’t matter who plays, whoever is wearing that Leinster shirt will put in a big shift and we can’t underestimate them at any point.
“The back row battle will be crucial; we can’t let them win that gain line battle or it will make turnovers very difficult to come by. It is an area we have been strong in this year, so hopefully we can use it to our advantage.”