Monday 18 December 2017

Cardiff Blues boss Davies staying positive


Gareth Davies of Cardiff Blues kicks a penalty
Gareth Davies of Cardiff Blues kicks a penalty
Sam Hill of Exeter in action during the match between Cardiff Blues and Exeter Chiefs
Cardiff's head coach Phil Davies

Andrew Baldock

Cardiff Blues boss Phil Davies has delivered an encouraging fitness update on Wales captain Sam Warburton ahead of this season's Six Nations. The flanker has not played since Wales lost at home to Australia in late November because of a shoulder injury.

But there is a possibility that Warburton might have a run-out when the Blues tackle LV= Cup opponents Bath next weekend.

"He has made great progression, that's for sure," Davies said. "I've spoken to Warren (Wales coach Warren Gatland). We want to make sure we do the best for Sam, really. He is not far away now, but he is in a position where we have just got to be really sure that it's 100 per cent. That might be next week, the week after or whatever the case might be."

Although the Blues were beaten by Exeter, a losing bonus point meant they finished second in Pool 2 and they could progress into the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals as one of three best second-placed Heineken teams.

The Chiefs, who had already been eliminated, triumphed through 14 points from outhalf Gareth Steenson and an early Dave Armand try, while Wales wing Alex Cuthbert touched down for the Blues, with Leigh Halfpenny kicking two penalties and a conversion.

"Exeter started like a train, to be fair to them, but we slowly crept back into the game by half-time," Davies said.

"We have got to rely on other people in terms of the Amlin, but with what has gone on this season with the way the squad has been disrupted on occasions, it's great credit to the players that we have still got an opportunity."

Exeter were left to reflect on a testing European campaign that saw Heineken Cup holders Toulon among their opponents, but head coach Rob Baxter has been encouraged by the overall picture.

"I was really pleased with our endeavour to compete for everything today," he said. "I am probably a little disappointed the game was as tight as it was. We had a dominant set-piece for pretty much the whole game and we didn't capitalise on that really.

"This has been our second Heineken Cup campaign and we have collected more points in the pool than we did last year. I am not going to look back and have regrets. The way the lads have performed has been fantastic.

"It probably turned for us on us not finishing Toulon off at home (in December) when we had them by the scruff of the neck."

Scorers -- Cardiff: A Cuthbert try, L Halfpenny con, 2 pens. Exeter: D Armand try, G Steenson con, 4 pens.

Irish Independent

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