Damian Welch believes the trip to take on Toulouse at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Friday is a perfect opportunity for the Cardiff Blues squad to gain invaluable experience at one of the hotbeds of European rugby.
Danny Wilson’s side will be looking to make it two from two in Europe, following last week’s bonus point victory over Lyon at Cardiff Arms Park.
Welch didn’t feature in the Challenge Cup opener, but believes the tough challenge in Toulouse is a chance for the Blues to build on their recent run of form, which has seen his side secure three victories in the last four games.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s one of those stadiums where you’ve seen it a lot on the old Heineken Cup, as it was, and the Top 14 games they’ve got,” said Welch.
“It’s one of those places that look like a great rugby environment, a great venue and I think it’s going to be a great experience for the boys to go out there, myself included as I’ve never been.
“It’s always known with French teams in European competitions that it’s going to be a great atmosphere with very partisan home fans which is something you don’t get much chances to experience and something you’ll really enjoy when you do.
“We need to show the performances recently, the try scoring, the bonus points haven’t been a fluke. It’s important that we start to look like a team that can go to places and we need to carry that on.
“The performances are massively important, it’s going to be a very tough day at the office but one that we can get a lot out of and really kick on ahead of the Scarlets game, which would be good for us.
“The ways the groups are seeded doesn’t necessarily reflect how the teams are playing in their current competitions. At the end of the day, we’re willing to challenge ourselves and want to play against the best teams and you’re only going to improve by playing against the best teams.
“We’ve faced the English champions in pre-season, and now face the two teams that sit pretty at the top of the Top 14, which is brilliant for us. That’s how we can know how good we are.”
Welch, who was part of Exeter Chiefs’ title-winning squad last season, is encouraged by the Blues’ improved performances in recent weeks and believes the signs are promising as the squad continue to build cohesion.
“Things are starting to come together a bit now. Like any team, you need a few games together to gel and combinations to start working and I think we’re starting to see the fruit of that labour.
“With the drives, the last year or so has seen a changed quite a lot in the way they’ve been refereeing, so teams have to find a way to deal with the new law interpretations. We, like any other teams, are looking for ways to improve our drive and it’s a work-in-process.
“It’s one of those things that when we do have a good performance, with a few tries, it’s nice to have some good forwards play in there and a nice classic old drive.”