Lloyd Williams insists the Cardiff Blues squad are desperate to build on their Heineken Champions Cup campaign, but admits they will have to be at their best to qualify for Europe's top table next season.
Wales’ Capital Region qualified for the competition for the first time since 2013/14, securing a double over Top 14 outfit Lyon.
However, John Muvlihill’s side missed out on a place in the knockout stages following pool stage defeats to Glasgow Warriors and Saracens.
With the race for qualification heating up, Williams has emphasised the importance of Saturday’s encounter against Guinness PRO14 Conference A rivals, Connacht.
“Us, Ospreys and Connacht are quite tight in the Conference, so to win on the weekend would be huge for us in terms of the rest of the season and where we can go from there,” said the Welsh international.
“These are big games for the region and for the individuals involved. It will be huge in the context fo where we’re at in our Conference towards the end of the season.
“Connacht have been a similar team over the last few seasons, and always bring a high work-rate.
“They like to play from deep with some expansive rugby. They’ve had a few call-ups to the Ireland team, but they’re sure to bring a similar style of rugby where they’ll try to out-work us, and we know what to expect.
“We obviously beat Lyon twice, and we’d like an opportunity to do a bit more in the Champions Cup.
“I think it will be a case of building within that competition. Next year, if we qualify, we’ll be able to take some confidence from this year.
“But we’re taking everything one step at a time, and our priority for now is the PRO14, and hopefully everything will fall into place.
“We’ve shown some really good glimpses at times this season, but have let ourselves down as well.
“The first three games of the season came down to the last minutes and only two or three points. That could prove huge for us, but it’s been and gone so we have to learn to move on.
“At the same time, we’ve built into the season quite well and are playing some really good rugby at the moment.”
With Tomos Williams currently away on international duty, Williams believes the next few weeks is an opportunity to put his hand up for the number nine shirt at Cardiff Arms Park.
The scrum-half said: “I’ve been pleased with my own game this season, and had a lot of rugby, which I’m happy with.
“Tomos is doing well, as is Lewis. We’re all competitive in the position, but we get along well and enjoy that side of the game.
“With Tomos currently away, it’s a big opportunity for me to stake a claim for the jersey, and Lewis will be thinking the same.
“I’m looking forward to playing as much rugby as I can and perform as well as I can for Cardiff Blues.”