Antoine Dupont of Toulouse breaks against Cardiff. Pic: Getty Images.

Cardiff’s Gruff Rees Praises Rookie XV . . . And Will Ask Them To Do It All Over Again In Round Two

By James Skeldon

Cardiff’s interim head coach Gruff Rees praised the resolve and determination shown by his side of misfits – thrown together after a whopping 42 squad members were unavailable for selection – even though their European campaign began with a heavy defeat.

Any match under the circumstances of so many of their squad in isolation would have been tough going, but they were tasked with facing a fully loaded Toulouse outfit stacked with quality.

Most notably, and significantly, they had to face recently crowned world player of year, Antoine Dupont.

“We were in that game at certain moments, said Rees after the 39-7 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park.

“At 20-7, there could have been a score either way but we were undone by three or four world class moments from the world player of the year.

“There’s so many individual stories behind every player on that pitch.

“It has been a remarkable effort and I’m chuffed to put some good rugby on show against a team that we did fluster a little bit. We made it scary for them and that’s probably something we can be proud of.”

It won’t get any easier for Cardiff as they go on to face the English club champions Harlequins in the next round of the Heineken Champions Cup.

“It is a challenge.,” added Rees.


“Losing a hooker and a possible HIA with Jason Tovey as well was hard.

“But it’s no different to what I’ve lived in for the last week and a half, really.”

Cardiff will also still be without the players who flew out to South Africa and were forced to quarantine. Rees will be resting them so they can get some well-earned adjustment time after their ordeal.

“It’s to look after guys who have had a really horrendous experience in terms of what they’ve had to go through.

“I think it’s important that they get back to their families and refresh themselves.”

Despite the defeat and scoreline, Rees insisted it was a day to remember and an occasion the club can look back on fondly.

“The coach in me thinks that we probably left a couple of tries out there,” he said.

“Rowan Jenkins coming off the field to a standing ovation and Jacob Beetham coming off the field to a standing ovation for a red card is a bit surreal.

“There’s so many moments to remember from the day.”

Cardiff were galvanised by their unfortunate circumstances and the crowd was fully involved throughout.

“They were brilliant,” said Rees.


“It’s fantastic that so many people have come out to a packed Arms Park.

“For me, growing up and watching games at the Arms Park on a regular basis, it was a sight to behold.”

One of Cardiff’s more senior players, Josh Adams, was forced to step up and lead by example and he did just that with a storming finish in the first half to send his team into the lead.

“I really enjoyed it. Some of the youngsters who were asked to step up, I’m super proud of them,” said Adams.

“They were excellent and they didn’t look out of place at all.

“It was a great day and a great occasion for them to have all their family and friends here.

“I thought they held their own. They were terrific.”

Adams’ experience was key on the day but he had backed his young teammates to do well against the reigning European Champions.

“As long as you kept talking to them throughout the game, it was fine,” said the Cardiff winger.


“At the end of the day, they’re professional rugby players so they understand the game well and it’s just about giving them confidence.

“They know exactly what is expected of them.

“Like I said, I’m so proud of them and it’s a great building block and hopefully now it will give them the confidence to kick on.”

Dupont grabbed the headlines as he almost single-handedly beat Cardiff. He played a vital role in each of the visitors’ first four of five tries, whether he was scoring or assisting them.

Adams, however, was keen not to  “big him up too much.

“We all know he’s good, so fair play to him.”


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