By Gareth James
Dai Young has admitted the Welsh regions need to develop greater depth if they are to compete across the board for honours.
Young takes his Cardiff side to Connacht on Saturday night, seeking a victory that would keep alive their hopes of a top eight finish and entry into the URC play-offs.
It’s a long five years since Wales had a team in the knockout stages of the competition, but Cardiff’s director of rugby knows it’s all about your back-up when tournaments reach the nitty-gritty.
The Arms Park outfit went out of the European Challenge Cup last week after losing to Benetton in Italy and although the Scarlets made the semi-finals, Young reckons more resources are required for the Welsh teams to compete consistently.
“As the Ospreys have shown, if you can get your best players out on the park you can give the best teams a run for their money,” said Young.
“We’ve shown in the Challenge Cup that we can compete as well. The challenge for us is always strength in depth. If you get a couple of injuries is your second choice good enough to stand up?
The thoughts of Dai Young as Cardiff bow out of Europe with a heartbreaking loss to Benetton Rugby.
You can read the full match-report below
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Cardiff are still in with a shout of making the play-off, but they have little room to maneuver in their final two games – away at Connacht and their Judgement Day showdown against the Ospreys next week.
They are likely to need a maximum 10 points from the two games to move up from 10th and get inside the top eight.
Connacht boosted for season-defining URC clash with Cardiff as Carty, Bealham and Buckley return https://t.co/jS2FB7mqA7 via @IrishTimesSport
— Irish Times Sport (@IrishTimesSport) April 11, 2023
That would also be enough to keep Cardiff ahead of the Ospreys in the race for the Welsh Shield and guaranteed entry into next season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
“Most of the season we’ve been out in front in the race for the Welsh Shield and it would be nice to end the season by winning that and maybe even squeezing into the play-offs,” added Young.
“It’s a long old slog over the season and you want to be a part of the business end with something to play for. We’ve got two huge games to finish.
“We were pleased with big parts of the Benetton game, but it got away from us just after we’d got our noses in front.
“We found a way to stay in the game, as we did against Sale the week before, and that was pleasing from a coaching point of view. Last year we weren’t able to do that.
“There were critical moments in the Sale right that we got right and crucial moments against Benetton that we got wrong. Both games could have gone either way.
“Connacht are a quality team who are up there pushing and have a lot to play for. They are the same as us. They are very strong at home and have a very good kicking game. We know what’s in front of us.”
Connacht have their own agenda. They are aiming to stay in the top eight – they currently lay sixth, five points ahead of Cardiff – but also want to provide a fitting send off to director of rugby, Andy Friend who takes in Galway for the final time.
The Australian has been in charge for five years, but leaves at the end of the season and said: ”This Saturday isn’t about me or anyone else leaving, its about us a collective trying to get another win and stay in that top eight of the URC.
“We sit sixth in the table but we need to win on the weekend because we don’t want to drop below that.”
Connacht are currently on a five-match winning streak in the URC, a tournament they won under Pat Lam’s guidance back in 2016.
S4C: Saturday, 7.30pm – Connacht v Cardiff
Live coverage of the United Rugby Championship match between Connacht and Cardiff from the Galways Greyhound Stadium.