Dai Young hopes Cardiff Blues can finish the season with a flourish and give the supporters something to look forward to when they hopefully make a long-awaited return to the terraces next season.
After a narrow defeat out in Munster last week, Italian outfit Zebre are the visitors to the Welsh capital on Saturday, as the sides go toe-to-toe in the final clash of the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup campaign.
The director of rugby believes his side have benefitted from the end of season competition as they look to head into pre-season with momentum.
“We want to finish on a high in the last game of the season at home,” said Young.
“Hopefully we’ll have the performance that we’re looking for alongside the result, which would give the Cardiff supporters a little bit of excitement ahead of coming back at the start of next season when, hopefully, the crowds are back on board.
“The competition has definitely been a useful exercise for us. I’ve only been here for a few months and it’s given me an opportunity to look at some players, especially over the first couple of games.
“It’s been an opportunity for boys who haven’t figured much in the league this year, as well as a chance to try out different combinations and look at players in alternative positions.
“So it’s been useful for that, because it’s been hard to manage that during the league situation.
“Over the last couple of games, we’ve tried to narrow it down to somewhere around what we would believe is our best available 23 at the moment.
“We’ve had positive performances as well. I’m never one to celebrate on the back of losses but we’ve had a lot of positives and a lot of things to work on. There are things about these last few weeks that we can be really pleased about.”
A number of the region’s stars have signed new deals at the Arms Park in recent weeks, including Owen Lane, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans and Willis Halaholo, while Matthew Screech and Rhys Priestland are also set to come on board for the 2021/22 season.
Young is confident that his side can continue to develop as they target further improvement next season.
“I still don’t get we’re getting the very best out of the squad we’ve got, but I’m confident that I can squeeze more out of them,” said the former British and Irish Lion.
“There are players who are still quite young and are heading in the right direction, so we’re seeing the improvement.
“I don’t think we’re a million miles away from it but we all know, when you look at the history here and the likes of Ben Blair, Xavier Rush and Paul Tito, how much difference four or five of those imports made at the time. It was very similar at the other Welsh sides as well.
“But I’m looking forward to the challenge. We haven’t been higher than seventh in the last 10 years, so we need to improve and I’m confident we can improve.
“I’m not going to sit here and make big statements about winning things over the next couple of seasons because that’s a big ask. That might come across as negative, but I’m just being realistic.
“It’s about moving forward and being more competitive than we are at this moment in time. I’m confident that this group can get better and I’m confident this group can move forward.
“To what levels? Who knows. That will also depend what happens elsewhere. The Irish team and the Scottish teams will be looking to recruit and with the potential of the South African sides coming in, it’s only going to get tougher.
“It won’t get any easier, so it’s all well and good to say that we can improve, which I’m confident of, but we need to make sure that we improve at a rate that’s quicker than the other teams.
“Otherwise we’ll continue to not compete at the levels that we want to.”