By Graham Thomas
Cardiff’s two Joshes – Adams and Turnbull – are twinned in their shared determination to lift some of the dark clouds over the Arms Park this weekend.
A last 16 meeting at home to Sale Sharks on Saturday evening has taken on added significance, beyond simply trying to make the quarter-finals in a tasty-looking Anglo-Welsh clash.
The death earlier this week of Cardiff’s former chairman Peter Thomas – a pioneering figure in so many ways in the early years of European competition – means the match will be an opportunity for players, fans and staff to pay their respects.
The tie – which is live on S4C – also gives some of the departing members of Cardiff’s squad a chance to remind people of what they could soon be missing, following a traumatic few weeks off the field.
“This tournament is an opportunity for a few players to go out with a bang,” says Cardiff skipper Turnbull.
“People might think the mood in training has not been good of late with everything that has been going on, but the boys have been excellent.
“We went through a rough patch, but we have come through it and this match is our first taste of knockout rugby for a quite a while and presents us with a fantastic opportunity.”
For Wales wing Adams, one of those who looks likely to now remain at the Arms Park, the tournament offers another prize.
At the age of 27, the former Scarlets and Worcester Warriors player has yet to get his hands on any club silverware.
“When you look back at the end of your career, you judge it many different ways, but to have a club trophy would be great,” says Adams, who returns to the Cardiff line-up alongside fellow internationals Taulupe Faletau and Tomos Williams.
“The club has won this tournament twice before. It would be great if we could lift it for a third time.
“It’s nice to have something to play for towards the end of the season. It’s something we talked about before we had even kicked a ball – about wanting to play some knockout rugby towards the end of the season.
“Sale are a very difficult side and they are a form team, so it will be our biggest challenge of the season. We’ll really have to step up.
“It’s been pretty much doom and gloom in recent weeks in Welsh rugby. There hasn’t been much nice light shone on things and it’s been difficult for everyone involved.
“But, hopefully, with all four regions involved in Europe this weekend, we can come up with some good results.”
Cardiff won three of their four pool matches, whilst Sale dropped down to the Challenge Cup after Heineken Champions Cup home-and-away defeats to both Ulster and Stade Toulouse.
But Sale are likely to be slight favourites as they are currently second in the English Premiership and enjoyed a recent notable victory over leaders, Saracens.
The visitors will include their England internationals Manu Tuilagi and Ben Curry, with Tuilagi’s confrontation with Cardiff’s Wales new boy, Mason Grady, one to demand attention.
Turnbull thinks so, but insists this is exactly the kind of contest that will benefit the 21-year-old Grady’s development.
“Tuilagi has shown there is plenty of life left in him yet, so it’s going to be a big test for our centres, but one that will do them good,” adds Turnbull.
“I’m also looking forward to playing against Tom Curry, who I don’t think I’ve played against before. He’s an outstanding back row forward.”
— Simon Thomas (@simonrug) October 11, 2022
Both teams will observe a minute’s silence for club life president Thomas before the game, followed by a minute’s applause.
A book of condolence has also been opened at Cardiff Arms Park for supporters to sign, while flowers can also be left outside the clubhouse in honour of a man who personally funded many of Cardiff’s early expeditions across Europe from the mid-1990s.
S4C – Saturday, 7.40pm: Rygi Ewrop – Cardiff v Sale Sharks
Live coverage of the European Challenge Cup round of 16 tie between Cardiff and Sale Sharks from Cardiff Arms Park.