Rugby: Flanker expects bruising time at Cardiff

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Edinburgh flanker Roddy Grant is relishing the opportunity to lock horns with a highly-regarded opposition back row when Edinburgh travel to meet Cardiff Blues on Heineken Cup duty tomorrow night.

Grant believes the contest will throw up several individual battles, and pinpoints the clash between Casey Laulala and Edinburgh’s Nick De Luca as one of the potentially decisive tussles.

But it is in his own domain that Grant believes the meeting of the two unbeaten sides in Pool 2 could be settled. The 24-year-old has previously enjoyed some tasty match-ups with Martyn Williams, who is side-lined with a broken arm. However, even in the absence of Cardiff’s wily campaigner, Grant knows he and his back row colleagues can expect a torrid 80 minutes.

“From my personal point of view, the Cardiff back row has always been incredibly strong,” he said. “Now there is the emergence of Sam Warburton.” And lining up alongside the Welsh international skipper will be two heavyweights for whom Grant has great respect. “Obviously Xavier Rush and Maama Molitika are incredibly hard men, so you are always guaranteed a good battle in the back row against Cardiff.”

Edinburgh currently top the pool after single point wins over London Irish and Racing Metro, but Cardiff have posted similar results in their two matches to date, although they have missed out on a bonus point in each of those successes.

With back-to-back clashes against the Blues next on the agenda, Edinburgh will steal an advantage in the race for qualification if they can secure a result tomorrow. Grant concedes it will not be easy, but is equally adamant that on current form, he and his colleagues will go into the match with realistic expectations of winning.

“Cardiff is a great place to play and we’re really looking forward to it,” he added. “It’s always a tough place to go but there is absolutely no fear at all. We know what it’s like to win down there and Cardiff is a game I really look forward to. We are all really looking forward to going down and having a good old battle.”

It is now eight seasons since Edinburgh enjoyed their only taste of the knock-out phase of the European competition, and Grant admits that the winning start to their campaign has placed them in an unfamiliar situation.

“It’s great but slightly different coming into the next set of games having won your first two games, and both teams undefeated coming into these two games. But it’s a great position to be in. It’s great for both teams but especially for us because it’s a huge opportunity. But we’re not looking past these two games. It’s always interesting having the double header. It would be huge to win the first game.”

Grant is confident that he and his colleagues can capitalise on try-scoring opportunities but knows they must avoid a situation similar to that which occurred in the epic 48-47 win over Racing Metro when Edinburgh scored six tries but conceded five. And they also leaked a couple against Aironi on RaboDirect Pro 12 duty at Murrayfield last Friday.

“We are playing good rugby at the moment. We can score tries, as we showed against Aironi and Racing Metro, but you’ve got to defend them as well, so coming into this game we’ve looked at getting our defence tweaked and sharpened up because obviously Cardiff have a great attacking threat. That’s the basics – defend well and score when you can and hopefully that will win you the game.”

Tomorrow night’s clash signals the firing of the starting pistol on a crucial four matches for Edinburgh but Grant is not looking too far ahead.

“We have double Cardiff and double Glasgow so it’s a huge month for us, but it starts at Cardiff,” he said. “Our goal was to win our first two games and we’ve done that. If we can win this game and build momentum for our second game against Cardiff then, from there, it’s all about keeping up the momentum and the wins.”