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Matt Sherratt Says Cardiff Cuts Run Deeper Than Some Fans Think As They Bid To Topple Bath

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By David Williams

Cardiff will have the benefit of home comforts when they host Bath at the Arms Park on Saturday in the European Champions Cup, but head coach Matt Sherratt has urged supporters to bring patience and realism along with their backing.

The Welsh regions are facing financial struggles with the budgets of the four professional sides reduced to £5.2m for the 2023-24 season, which is much less than the top French, Irish and English sides.

Bath – who beat Ulster 37-14 on the opening weekend – are heavily backed by owner Bruce Craig and are able to pay their star Scotland fly-half Finn Russell £1m-a-year.

Fans of all four Welsh regions have been warned the painful scorelines in European rugby will continue for a good while yet.

The quartet are all in action this weekend after a mixed bag of results in the opening round of the European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup.

The Ospreys and the Dragons both managed home wins last week, but both Cardiff and the Scarlets suffered heavy defeats out in France.

“People who don’t understand the situation will just look at the scoreboard and say they’ve lost,” says Sherratt.

“If you look at the Toulouse budget and squad size, they have a squad of 78 and a budget of more than 20m Euros, while we have a squad of 38.

“If that was football nobody would be giving us a chance. What everybody needs to recognise is that people only talk about cuts on the field, but there have been huge cuts off the field as well.

“We have lost two or three coaches and a strength and conditioning coach, an analyst.

“Our defence coach Gethin Jenkins only works two days a week so I was sat in the stand this weekend without a defence coach.

“None of that is an excuse because we want to be competitive. But that is the reality of it.”

The Scarlets are first into action when they host Georgian side, Black Lion, on Friday night in the Challenge Cup.

The Scarlets were competitive, yet ultimately well beaten, in their opening game in Pool 3, going down 36-14 in Castres.

In their first game in the tournament, Black Lion pushed Gloucester all the way before picking up a losing bonus-points in a 15-10 defeat in Tbilisi.

Scarlets centre Johnny Williams impressed in Castres and is keen to use the tournament as a way to show he deserves to get back in the Wales team ahead of the Six Nations.

“I’m grateful to be able to look back with massive pride and honour at playing for Wales at the World Cup, although I probably didn’t play as much as I would have liked,” said Williams.

“Everyone was fighting for positions and the 23 were going well, so it is what it is. But I want to be part of the Wales team, I want to pick up some more caps and to continue playing at the top level.

“Doing well in Europe, and picking up more results in the URC, is the biggest focus now. If I play well, then hopefully on the back of that I can be involved in the Six Nations.”

The return of Argentine World Cup scrum half Gonzalo Bertranou will boost the Dragons for their visit to Pau in France on Saturday evening

The 29-year-old was given extra-time to recover from his French exploits, when he helped the Pumas reach the semi-finals before narrowly missing out to England in the Bronze Medal match.

But now he is fit and raring to go and hoping to play a part in the Dragons next European assignment..

“It’s great news for us that Gonzalo is available again. He is a real competitor and comes back after a good World Cup with Argentina, so he will be keen to make an immediate impression,” said Dragons backs coach, Matt O’Brien.

“The more players of international quality we can have in the building and available to us, the better. We’re strong at nine this season so we hope he can carry on his form with the Pumas with the Dragons.”

The Ospreys are the last of the four regions in action when they face Montpellier, also in France, on Sunday.

The Swansea region are looking to build on their opening win against Benetton and will be encouraged by Montpellier’s poor record this season of just one win in nine matches which leaves them currently bottom of the French Top 14.

Montpellier beat Newcastle Falcons in their opening European tie but lost twice to the Ospreys in Europe last season and Ospreys head coach Toby Booth insists: “The pressure is on them.

“Their budget is x and ours is y. Everyone will be talking about how they are not going well in the Top 14, but it doesn’t matter.

“We expect them to be at their best and if we underestimate them, we will come second. From that point of view, we see it as an opportunity. “

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