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Hodges calls for improvement in remainder of URC season

First Team News | 27th April 2022

Richard Hodges has urged Cardiff to restore pride in the jersey and finish the United Rugby Championship season on a high.

Four consecutive defeats, three in the URC, have left the Blue and Blacks with only a mathematical chance of snatching the Welsh Shield with four games remaining.

Hodges has been bitterly disappointed with recent form, particularly the number of points conceded and defensive lapses. 

And while he points to a collective responsibility, he knows the Cardiff defence can, and has been, far more resolute. 

He said:  “In the Saracens game we showed some green shoots of recovery but the Ospreys game was disappointing. We have to make sure we finish this season collectively on a big positive to send us into next season.

“There’s no getting away from the disappointment of how things have turned out post-Christmas but we have to show a bit of fight and resolve to finish this season on a positive note. We have to restore some pride in the shirt. 

“Defence has been disappointing and it’s probably been for a bit longer than a month. We came out of the South African lockdown and we were sitting in a good place defensively… we were top four. 

“I have coached this team for 120, 130 games and over the course of that period of time, up until Christmas, we have shown significant signs of improvement. Last year, only Leinster conceded less tries and going up to Edinburgh, when the wheels started to wobble, we were still sitting pretty defensively.

“The ones that linger long in the mouth are Ulster away and Scarlets home - those are games when the performance was unacceptable. 

“It keeps you awake at night. You look at source fo tries, times when we concede in games and it’s a collective. 

“One area that functions one day, may not function the next week and that’s where we need to get consistency. So it’s difficult to point the finger at one area, it can be defence, attack, set-piece, everything is combined and we are working hard to improve.

“If your attack is on point, you spend less time on that area. If your set-piece is on the front foot, you spend less time defending. If our defence is accurate and we can get the ball back as quickly as possible then we spend more time attacking. It’s a collective but the defence has a light shone on it and we have to improve.

“The Saracens game was a step forward against a top European outfit and on the weekend if you look at the nature of the tries it was an intercept and driving maul tries. 

“This team and group of players with the same coach and same system has in the last couple of seasons consistently been a top four (defensive) outfit but I am also very conscious that you are only as good as your last game. We have shown in the last six to eight weeks that we have to improve in that area.”

Cardiff travel to face in form Munster on Friday night in what promises to be another formidable challenge.

They take on the Irish outfit in Cork, where they have triumphed before, and while Hodges knows it will be a significant test, he has pointed to recent encounters, which have all been close.

He added: “It’s going to be a big test on Friday and we will need to be better.

“Munster’s threats are pretty well-versed across the board. If the result is ever close they revert to their maul game, they look to get some penalties out of that, and then their kicking game. 

“There’s more ball movement in their attacking shape than we have seen in recent seasons and that is the Stephen Larkham effect coming to fruition. You can’t get away from the fact that you have to front up in the front five and get a foothold in the game.

“We played them over there last year and in the 74th and 76th minute they were both three-point games so we have proven we can go toe-to-toe with them.”