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Young expects Cardiff to take performance to next level against Zebre

First Team News | 8th September 2022

Dai Young is expecting Cardiff to take their performance to the next level when they welcome Zebre to the capital for a final pre-season encounter on Friday (KO 7.15pm).

Following last week’s defeat to Gloucester, Cardiff have welcomed the likes of Thomas Young, Rhys Carré, Lopeti Timani, Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo into their matchday squad for the Arms Park clash.

Only a week remains until the BKT United Rugby Championship gets underway with a mouth-watering home encounter against Munster on Friday, September 16 - where the Director of Rugby revealed further internationals such as Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams will be available for selection.

Young was pleased with how his side improved as the Gloucester match progressed and wants to build on the positives of the Kingsholm outing.

“We were pretty rusty to start off against Gloucester, although we did have lots of pressure and lots of good phases,” explained the former Wales international.

“That resulted in us spending a lot of time in the opposition’s 22 but coming away with nothing. That was a disappointing factor, and then Gloucester came with their renowned driving line-out, which we always knew was going to be a threat if we gave them field position, which we did.

“In general play we had some real good spells of defence, and they didn’t break us too many times with ball in hand.

“We gave away a couple of needless penalties. Not huge numbers, with only eight in total and seven coming in the first half. We certainly learnt from the experiences of the first half where we gave away penalties which allowed them to have five meter driving line-outs. We stopped one or two but gave them five or six in total.

“They’re too good a team to give them opportunities and the scoreboard racked up very quickly without them having to do too much.

“When you looked at the game, it didn’t feel like there was too much between both teams. When they had opportunities in the 22, they came away with three driving line-out tries but when we had three driving line-outs we didn’t get over.

“Going into half time, although the scoreboard looked quite ugly at 28-0, we were far better than the score suggested. I was confident in the second half that we would give a better account of ourselves and we did that.

“For big periods of the second half, we dominated and were by far the better team. On the scoreboard, we actually won the second half even though that’s no consolation.

“But we got better as the game went on, and that’s what to be expected in a friendly. It was their third friendly and it was our first.

“Very similarly I expect us to be better this week having had that game under our belt.

“We spoke about certain things we wanted to get measured in the last game. We knew it wouldn’t be perfect as it was our first game, and we expect to get measured at a higher level again now.

“I’m looking at things that we can get better at, and we’ve worked on the driving line-outs on both sides of the ball. We scored from our own driving line-out but we also had opportunities earlier in the game where it could’ve been a momentum changer had we scored early doors.

“We’ve looked at keeping hold of the ball and having more penetration, being a bit more kick-orientated on occasions because we ran everything, which isn’t bad in a friendly.

“We want a bit more game nous, while playing with ball in hand as much as we can because that’s what we want to do while not being afraid to put it behind them.

“For me, the game in the two 22s is where we need to improve because they scored too easily in ours and we had opportunities where we didn’t score inside theirs.

“They’re big areas there but I’m expecting a big step up again this week.

“It’s always about the result, I don’t ever want to get away from that. At no point are we ever happy to lose, because we’re not. But things are important within the performance. 


“To be fair to Zebre, they throw the ball about and are comfortable with making a few mistakes. They’ll take risks and if they come off they will cause you problems.

“But they can cause themselves problems as well. Traditionally they’ve got a pretty good set piece and have always got a good scrum and driving line-out.

“We obviously don’t know which team they’ll be playing so we don’t know where they are with that.

“We’re expecting a team that will want to come here to play rugby and a team that can be dangerous. If everything sticks for them, they can be a very dangerous team.”

Youngsters such as Teddy Williams, Mason Grady, Efan Daniel and Jacob Beetham will have featured for the Blue and Blacks over the course of pre-season.

Young insists the promising youngsters’ progression must be carefully managed but he has been encouraged by their development over the summer.

The Director of Rugby added: “Bringing youngster through is something that’s very important to us. If you look at the squad, around 65 per cent have come through the academy.

“We can be proud of that, and can stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody in terms of how many players come through the academy.

“That continues and what we’ve got to do is bleed them into the squad. It’s not about using them all at once. We want to use the more experienced players to benefit them.

“You look at Max and Mason, I thought it was a hell of a difference in their performance against Gloucester compared to Treviso last season. They’ve learnt from that game and worked on things over pre-season.

“What you will get from youngsters is ups-and-downs, and you need to have enough bottle to stick with them.

“You don’t want to over-play them, but need to make sure you give them opportunities.

“With someone like Jacob - who would’ve had opportunities last year had he been fit -  it’s always my intention to bring the youngsters through at a rate they’re comfortable with.

“You don’t want them coming in and bouncing out. It needs to be a gradual building process.

“We’re lucky with the RFC, because that’s a genuine second team who are playing with really good semi professionals. They can learn from them in a league where they’re doing really well.

“We know our pathway, and believe it works, but as with a lot of things, it doesn’t happen overnight.

“Everyone is glad to be seeing the back-end of pre-season. Players who haven’t been on tour have had an opportunity to get some rugby. The guys who were on tour are back in and will be in selection discussion next week.

“Like most teams, it’s very hard to pick your first team. The slate is never wiped clean, but there are opportunities.

“You’ve got to look at how much rugby guys have had, whether they’re ready or not, how you filter the internationals back in. It’s a juggling act and everyone will do it slightly different.

“But all the players can do this week is put their hands up. We know where the internationals are, and we’ll make the calls on that. 

“But everyone is excited for the Arms Park on a Friday night, playing against Munster. Hopefully it will be a big crowd, and I have no reason to doubt that it will because they came out in their numbers last season.

“They were first class. On occasions we let them down, but this year we’re determined to turn this into a bit of a fortress.”