With sides across the continent preparing to get their European campaign underway, John Mulvihill is determined to continue Cardiff Blues’ proud history in the Challenge Cup.
Wales’ Capital Region are two-times winners of the competition, and this season marks the 10-year anniversary since their first triumph, which came at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, following a stunning victory over Toulon.
The final returns to the Côte d’Azur city this season, and Wales’ Capital Region kick off their campaign with a trip to Calvisano on Saturday before Leicester Tigers visit the Arms Park a week later.
The head coach is excited for the challenges that lay ahead in Europe, and recalls his memories of a historic European tie between Cardiff Blues and Leicester Tigers.
“This club has got a proud history in the Challenge Cup competition,” said Mulvihill.
“10 years ago was the first big win in the Amlin Cup, as it was called then, and the success and memories of two years ago in Bilbao still echoes around the place a lot.
“I would like to be involved in getting further into the competition, so for us there is a big importance in getting out of our pool.
“You have to take it game-by-game, and if we start well this week we’ll gain some momentum.
“If we can take the Cheetahs momentum over to Calvisano, and then carry that into Leicester at the Arms Park, where it should be a great game.
“One of my first time watching a Heineken Cup game was in 2008, where I was on tour with the Western Force in Cape Town.
“On TV we watched the famous game that had the penalty shoot-out in the semi final. Unfortunately two of the boys missed kicks and they didn’t get there.
“But that was fantastic, and we enjoyed the Heineken Cup last year, but it might’ve been a year too early for us.
“We definitely want to get back into that competition, but the Challenge Cup had two big French teams in the final last year.
“There are some big clubs involved again this year, and while the best of the best play in the Heineken Cup, this isn’t that far away, so it will be right up there for us.”
The Blues also face a European double-header against Pau in December - with a Guinness PRO14 clash against Benetton also on the horizon - before attention turns to the festive derbies against Ospreys, Dragons and Scarlets.
After last week’s victory over Toyota Cheetahs, Mulvihill hopes his side can build further momentum from the Challenge Cup as they look to challenge on both fronts.
The Australian added: “We’ve got a really exciting period coming up. You could look at it and say it’s a tough period, but we’re excited for the challenges.
“We can travel with a group of players who enjoy each other’s company and want to play for each other, and we can get success and build on that.
“Our start of the season has been a bit slow, but we haven’t been too far from getting it right either.
“The confidence we have from that Cheetahs game will lead us into the next few weeks and hopefully we can build a bit of a run.
“Teams who go on to play in finals, whether that’s the PRO14 or in Europe, need to be winning at least four or five games in a row.
“That’s what we’re after, and is one of the things we spoke about wanting to improve on from last year, which is our inconsistency.
“We’re looking to win those games on the trot, and once this team has that confidence they become a great team to watch.
“That’s what you want to see as a coach - your players really extending themselves and going for it.”