Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley insists his men will head for Wales for the first leg of a Heineken Cup double header against Cardiff Blues this weekend oozing confidence after a recent string of outstanding performances.
The Irishman has piloted the Capital outfit to single point victories in each of their two opening matches in the Heineken Cup and they continued that wining form with a half century of points against Italian outfit Aironi in the RaboDirect Pro12 last Friday. He believes the dominant performance against the Italian outfit has enhanced the positive mood in the Edinburgh camp.
“Our set piece went well and I think our defence went well, so that’s a good confidence boost for us in two key areas. And we know we can attack,” stated Bradley. “So, we should be going to Cardiff with confidence in our own ability but we will be extremely mindful of the quality they have. I think it’s potentially the strongest Cardiff team I’ve seen in an awful long time.”
There is still a massive task ahead before Edinburgh can even consider the possibility of qualifying for the knockout phase of the competition for the first time since the 2003/04 season, and Bradley knows that results over the next two weeks will help determine which team progresses from Pool 2.
“Obviously we know that Cardiff are an extremely talented side. Similar to ourselves, they have two victories. I think we need to get something out of the next two games or at least be evens over the next two games and then you take your chances in the last two. That’s where our mind set is at the moment. We just have to get enough out of both games really.”
One fact that will lend an additional boost to the Edinburgh players is the diverse fortunes of the two sides in last week’s league fixtures. While Bradley’s men were delivering their latest triumph, albeit against the basement side, Cardiff were slumping to a 52-9 defeat against table-topping Leinster.
However, the Welsh side have dominated recent meetings between the sides with wins in each of their last five encounters and their forwards coach Justin Burnell will be looking to extend that run in the back to back games over the next two weekends. Nevertheless, he insists his men will approach the match with caution. “We do have a good record against Edinburgh but it counts for nothing at all now. It is all about current form and they are a fantastic side.
“We are well aware that Edinburgh are a very good side. Michael Bradley has come in and given them a total overhaul, having done a fantastic job at Connacht. They have formidable players like Tim Visser, Chris Paterson and Ross Ford and some of them are the form players in Europe.”
Visser was the star man for Bradley’s side last Friday with a hat-trick of tries, taking his tally to eight in the current league campaign and extending his lead at the top of the charts. While his ability to cross the whitewash has been evident since he arrived at the club, Visser has been working assiduously with the club’s defence coach Billy McGinty. And, the winger believes he has made substantial progress towards eliminating an aspect of his game that was viewed as his Achilles heel.
Burnell is also wary of Greig Laidlaw, who coolly delivered the crucial kick that snatched the incredible 48-47 win against Racing Metro in Edinburgh’s last Heineken Cup outing. His league form with the boot makes him the second best marksman behind Glasgow’s Duncan Weir.
The Cardiff coach sees Laidlaw’s tussle with opposite number Lloyd Williams as being crucial to the outcome of Friday’s tie.
“The battle has to be won up front first and a scrum half is only as good as the possession he gets.
“(However) the scrum half who is on the front foot will be the one that comes out on top on the night.”