Gethin Jenkins is excited by Cardiff Blues' mix of youth and experience, as they head into the latter stages of the season with all to play for.
Danny Wilson’s side take on Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup quarter final on Saturday, and will also be competing for a place in the end-of-seaosn play-offs when they return to Guinness PRO14 action next week.
Jenkins is one of four current Cardiff Blues squad members who were part of the 2010 Amlin Challenge Cup final victory over a star-studded Toulon in Marseille.
However, ahead of Saturday’s encounter at BT Murrayfield, Wales’ record cap-holder insists the region are reaping rewards for the experiences handed to youngsters such as Jarrod Evans, Seb Davies and Dillon Lewis over the past few years.
“It seems a long time ago out in Marseille, when we beat Toulon and won the Amlin Challenge Cup,” said Jenkins.
“It’s obviously a completely different squad now, except for three or four faces, but we’ve built on this season and gone from strength-to-strength.
“It’s good to see the blend of youth and experience we’ve got. A lot of youngsters have been thrown in at the deep end over the last two or three years, and they’re coming into the games now, showing the confidence they’ve got and bringing it to the top level.
“That’s the culture we’ve developed over the last three years. We believe in each other, and we’ve got a good blend of ages throughout the squad who bring different qualities to the game.
“It’s now about making sure, in big games like the weekend, that we’re ready to go and focused on the job ahead.
“It’s probably 50-50 going into it - we’ve been doing well and they’ve been doing well. They’ve got home advantage so that probably counts a little bit for them.
"We face each other every year, sometimes twice, so we know about each other’s games, so it will be an even contest and it will come down to who brings the better performance"
Jenkins is also a former Heineken Cup winner, having lifted the trophy during his stint with Toulon.
Ahead of another key European knock-out clash, the loosehead reflected on his highlights in a Cardiff Blues jersey.
“One that sticks in my mind is the win over Toulouse, at home, in the Millennium Stadium. We ground it out 9-6 and it was a massive effort from the whole team.
“Also, Wasps away in the Amlin semi-final. That was a big win for us in the rain and we weren’t expected to win, and that’s probably one of the biggest away wins of my career.
“With the Blues you always know that you have to perform to your best in order to win.
“With Toulon it was a bit different. You rocked up and had the feeling you were going to win. You looked around you and you knew - ‘we’re going to win here’.”