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Player development the focus says Botham

18th January 2018

James Botham insists that player development has been the focus during this season's British and Irish Cup campaign, as Cardiff Blues Premiership Select prepare to take on Bristol Rugby in the final pool stage game on Friday.

The back row continues his comeback from a long-term ankle injury and is named on the open side for the Ashton Gate clash.

Meanwhile, Bristol have named a strong line-up, consisting of 10 international players, with Botham set to battle the likes of Samoa international, Jack Lam, and former Scarlets and Gloucester flanker, Dan Thomas, in the back row.

The Wales under-20’s international insists he is not fazed by coming up against experienced internationals and hopes his side can upset the odds when they come up against the English Championship leaders.

“We’ve got a good test on Friday against a strong Bristol team, so it will be interesting to see how we get on,” said Botham.

“We need to keep our heads up high and hopefully we can sneak a win over there.

“It’s quite hard for some of the boys to be coming in and out of the squad, and they might not necessarily know each other, but you’ve seen how we’ve started to gel over the past couple of games and the performances have reflected that.

“This is all about continuing with our development as individuals and as a team. Development is key for us in this competition. 

“A lot of the younger boys are having experience in the British and Irish Cup, but we also get the opportunity to learn from the senior boys when we train with them during the week.

“You’ll develop as a player from playing in these type of matches, and that’s what we need is to get players through from the academy.

“I don’t look into reputation of opposition players too much to be honest, for me they’re just another player that I will come up against. I just want to play the game, enjoy myself and see what happens.

“I was out for 17-weeks altogether with my ankle, but now it’s really good to be back. The body is still taking time to get back into condition, so it can be tiring, but I’m back on track now.”

Botham was one of six Cardiff Blues players named in Jason Strange’s Wales Under-20 squad for the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

The back row was also involved with the side last season, impressing with his performances during the Under-20’s World Championship, and he hopes that experience will give him an edge ahead of this year’s challenge.

Botham said: “The squad was announce today, and I’m really excited to be involved again this season. Hopefully I will get a few games under my belt.

“It’s a good block for me. Having been injured for most of the season so far I haven’t played much games, but I need to progress and develop as a player and I believe playing at international under-20’s level is the perfect way to do that.

“The sides you come up against in the Six Nations and the Under-20’s World Championship are world class and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

“It was a big step up for me last year, playing against a lot of boys who were a year older, but hopefully having put on a bit of size will help me going into the campaign this time around.

“I’ve been around camp so I know the calls, the systems and the style of play we want to aim for, and I think last year’s experiences should help me.

“We’ve got the same coaches involved this season and hopefully as a team we can get going, get some wins under our belts and really press a claim for the title.

“There’s quite a few Cardiff Blues boys in there again this season, but there are a lot of new faces around as well, which shows the strength in depth that we have here in Wales. 

“Looking at it from a personal point of view, there is a lot of competition in the back row, but that can only be a good thing for the team and the competitiveness will drive everyone to play better as you have to work harder.”