Director of Rugby Mark Hammett insists his Cardiff Blues are determined to earn the respect of others this season after a narrow 21-17 defeat against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Battling Blues impressed in the East Midlands as they fought back from an early double try burst from Tigers to give the English side a huge scare at their formidable home.
A superbly taken try from Lloyd Williams and 12-points from the boot of Rhys Patchell saw Blues take a second half lead before Freddie Burns kicked Leicester to a late win.
However, for Hammer – who gave debuts to Josh Turnbull, Adam Thomas and Adam Jones – it was still a performance full of passion and commitment that bodes well for the new Guinness PRO12 campaign that kicks-off next weekend.
“We have been on a training camp in Leicester for the last three days, working on how we want to be seen as a region and as a team,” he revealed.
“We certainly wanted to be respected in time and we know words don’t do that, you have got to do that with a performance. Tonight was a start. There are no points on that particular game, but we got out of it what we wanted.
“We have seen that our young boys have got to hit a certain level. They acquitted themselves pretty well at a place that is pretty proud and full of tradition.”
Hammer used a 34-man squad in the friendly fixture as players gained valuable game time and he continued to put his mark on the region.
“It can be tough with so many changes, but with this competition and the length of season we all need to know our roles and the part we play in it. That is something we are going to pride ourselves on this year,” he added.
“There are lots of areas I want to work on. You have got to remember, things are very different here. That doesn’t mean that it is wrong, it is just different. I’m still finding my way a little bit in that perspective.
“I’ve got to not judge too quickly. I’m going to make sure I do that because guys like Chief (Dale McIntosh) and Johnsey (Paul John) have done a good job up until now and I’m proud of what they have done.”
Hammer was keen to praise a collective team effort at Leicester, but admitted a number of the summer signings had shone while some returning stars had also impressed.
“From a commitment perspective - everyone was good,” he said. “Manoa (Vosawai) was particularly strong on attack and on defence. In terms of some of our carry, Josh (Turnbull) was good.
“It’s hard to single out players until I’ve had a good look at the game. I’m often more concerned with the work off the ball as opposed to what is often written in the media, that is what wins games.
“Rhys (Patchell) is going to turn into a class player; a guy who works that hard will,” he added, after watching the Wales ace slot three penalties and a second half drop goal.
“It’s important he continues to work hard and has clarity in the week so when he gets on the field he can dump any anxieties, that we all have as rugby players, and can just perform.
“It was good to see Sam (Warburton) back and he was menacing in the rucks, as he always is. Just having a guy like that in your side always raises the ability around you.
“Adam (Jones) has also been fantastic in the group. We’ve been on camp and have talked about the values and behaviours we want to live by this year and he was a really good contributor to that.”