With Scarlets set to visit the Arms Park on Boxing Day, Josh Turnbull has called on Cardiff’s returning players to back up the recent displays in the Heineken Champions Cup.
With 42 players unavailable, a ‘misfit’ Blue and Blacks squad containing a blend of internationals, academy youngsters and semi-professional players went toe-to-toe with both Toulouse and Harlequins in Europe, earning plaudits for their performances against the European and English champions.
Turnbull, who was amongst the 32 players in enforced quarantine following the recent URC trip to South Africa, says momentum from Europe has carried into this week’s preparations and admits it’s the one fixture he always looks out for when the season schedule is announced.
“We spoke as a playing group about how well the boys have done over the last two weeks,” said the club captain.
“They’ve turned a few heads and it’s pricked a few consciences.
“The young boys and the Premiership players stepping in has really put Cardiff Rugby in good light.
“But that will mean nothing if the boys coming back in against the Scarlets don’t back it up.
“They’re in a similar position, and haven’t played for eight weeks, and had to do a similar quarantine.
“The game last week was called off so they probably haven’t got the buzz around training like we have at the moment.
“It’s the one game I look forward to every year, it’s the one that really gets me buzzing. I enjoy raising intensity levels and ripping into them.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t have crowds but obviously health comes first.
“These games are massive for all clubs and you want to play them in front of full crowds.
The biggest disappointment is that we’re unable to reschedule these fixtures and play derbies in front of big crowds.”
The utility forward also reflected on his time in enforced quarantine, as he looked to be productive ahead of the second half of the season.
The Welsh international added: “It’s nice to be back, because it was obviously tough to be in quarantine for the period of time that we were.
“But it’s nice to be back out there and that’s nice for the whole squad. Everyone is back from quarantine now, which is great.
“The first thing I did was take the youngest one to school, having been back in the house by 4.30 in the morning.
“I had a couple hours of kip before I was up with the kids to take them to school. It was good.
“Just seeing the smiles on their faces, that was the biggest thing for me. You don’t actually realise how much you miss them until you’re back home and with them.
“I’m not going to lie, it was tough and every player reacted differently to how the quarantine went.
“Some probably struggled more than others and others would’ve been able to cope with it a little bit better.
“You try to keep yourself focused as best possible, knowing that the end is near.
“I actually feel pretty good now, and put a couple of kilos on, so I’m at a good weight now I think.
“I was fortunate enough that our player development manager picked me up a couple of dumbbells. They were brought into the hotel room so I was able to maintain some strength and also had a bike in the room.
“I tried to get out to utilise that 15 to 20 minute a day, which was important as well.
“You could’ve looked at it in two ways - you could’ve thought ‘bugger this’, I’ll sit on my bed for 10 days.
“But I saw it as an opportunity to rest the body and prepare in a different way. I wanted to get those niggles from the last couple of weeks out of the system and try to maintain consistency.”