Matt Sherratt believes Friday night's pre-season clash with Aviva Premiership champions, Exeter Chiefs, is a perfect opportunity for players to stake a claim for a place in Cardiff Blues' line-up for the opening Guinness PRO14 fixture against Edinburgh next week.
A youthful Blues side defeated London Scottish at Richmond Athletic Ground last week, and the Cardiff Blues backs and attack coach was impressed by performances during the 34-23 win.
Sherratt insists places are still up for grabs for the Championship opener at Cardiff Arms Park and the competition is fierce throughout the squad after last week’s victory.
“The first priority for any pre-season is to prepare physically and we got 25 players some game time on Saturday at London Scottish, which was a great test for us,” said Sherratt.
“This weekend the players who didn’t get game time in London will get to play.
“The first bit of priority will be for them to get their first bit of rugby of the season and match fitness before the tough test of Edinburgh.
“We challenged the squad to stick their hands up against London Scottish and put a performance in that puts them in the picture to get selected against Edinburgh. As a coach, if you say that you’ve got to back it up, you can’t take it away.
“Certain individuals played very well against London Scottish, but it will be a balance of players [who impress and those who need game time].
“Everybody needs to get some rugby and we need to have an environment where players feel they’ve got a realistic chance of getting selected if they play well.
“When you look at our first five fixtures we’ve got Edinburgh first, who has Richard Cockerill - a new coach, new environment - who will want to start off well.
“Then we’ve got Leinster away, Glasgow at home, Connacht away and Munster away, so rather than think about a final in Dublin let’s think about that first block of games and start as well as we can.”
Sherratt was part of Wales’ management during the summer tour to the Pacific Islands, where Robin McBryde’s side maintained a 100 per cent record following wins against Tonga and Samoa.
Selected for the tour were Cardiff Blues youngsters Dillon Lewis and Seb Davies, who won their first caps against Tonga, and Sherratt hopes their experience on the international stage will give the region a boost throughout the 2017/18 campaign.
“I was fortunate enough to go. It was a good learning curve and eye opener for me.
“It was good to see Dillon going, who’s got decent experience but limited in terms of Guinness PRO14, and Seb, who went over there in a three to four week period and accelerated his development and shown he can cope with that level.
“It’s important for us as a region to give those players the chance to build on that and not just have a summer tour and not play for four or five weeks. They proved on a tough tour that they can cope at a good level and hopefully they can back that up for us.”
Tickets for Friday night's game, as well as the first three Guinness PRO14 fixtures at CAP, are on sale NOW!