Richard Hodges believes Toulouse present the perfect challenge for Cardiff Blues, as they look to extend their recent good form.
Danny Wilson’s side have won three out of the last four games, seeking back-to-back bonus point victories against Dragons and Lyon at Cardiff Arms Park.
Hodges insists the strength in depth within the Le Stade squad represents a daunting task for the Blues, but he remains confident of securing a positive result should they win key individual battles across the park.
“The Lyon match was a real good start to our campaign and we’re three out of four now, following a tough beginning to the season,” said Hodges.
“There’s some confidence in camp now and I think it was quite an emphatic victory in the end.
“In this group, we’re going against Lyon, who are top of the Top 14, and Toulouse who are second. With Sale Sharks in there as well, it’s almost like a Champions Cup group.
“We’re sitting on the top of the table after the first round of games, and have a bit of a daunting task this weekend, but on the back of winning three out of the last four games it’s the type of challenge we need now to test ourselves against what is perceived to be the next level up.
“Their side changed dramatically last week - only one player played against Clermont and then into Sale Shark.
“They’ve got a lot of depth to their squad as you can imagine, which is typical of a Top 14 club, but they can roll out internationals from one to 15 in both their sides.
“It’s going to be a great challenge at nine o’clock on a Friday night.
“They’ve got a fairly forwards-orientated power game, as you’d expect, with some big men in there, so dominating the gainline and those collisions around the ruck will be key.
“We’ve set our backs a challenge of winning their individual battles, there will be some key one-on-ones and if we can come out on top of that and get an upper hand at set piece then we will be in a really good position to win this game.”
Hodges works closely with the Blues’ transition group, and has seen youngsters such as Seb Davies, Keiron Assiratti, Corey Domachowski and Tomos Williams step up regularly to first team rugby over the past two seasons.
The assistant coach believes Friday’s game will present another opportunity for the squad’s promising youngsters to gain invaluable experience against Europe’s elite.
Hodges said: “It’s part of their development, to play in one of the hotbeds of European rugby. But whichever youngster we’ve put in this season has surprised us a little bit and really come to the party.
“You look at Garyn, who was named man-of-the-match last week, Jarrod, Tomos, Seb, Corey Domachowski, how Assiratti has gone across the season as well. The pathway is working as it is at all four regions and there is a lot of good and young talent in Wales.
“It will be a real good occasion for these boys, they can’t be daunted by going to Toulouse on Friday by going against some front-line European players, but what an opportunity.”