Cardiff's Young does u-turn on Irish taunts
CARDIFF BLUES coach Dai Young has climbed down from his belief that Irish rugby is no longer on a pedestal -- and now claims that anyone who writes off Leinster or Munster is "foolish".
The Blues take on Leinster at the RDS on Saturday after opening their Magners League campaign with an impressive bonus-point win over Edinburgh and Young believes Joe Schmidt's side are a dangerous proposition despite losing out in Glasgow last weekend.
Young has overseen a steady improvement in fortunes at the Blues in recent times -- guiding them to the European Challenge Cup last season -- and the Welsh outfit are one of the favourites to win the Magners League, boosted by a winning streak of nine games, stretching back to last season.
At the launch of the 2010/2011 competition a fortnight ago, Young said that "we have a confidence about us now when we travel to Ireland that we did not used to have. That pedestal we have placed them (the provinces) on in the last couple of years probably isn't there now".
However, facing into the challenge of taking on the 2009 Heineken Cup champions in their Dublin lair, Young has adopted a different position.
"Anyone who starts to write the likes of Leinster and Munster off are foolish," said the former Wales and Lions prop.
"You only have to look at the quality of Leinster's squad to see how dangerous they are. Yes, they lost to Glasgow last week, but there are a lot of sides who will go to Glasgow and lose, so that's nothing to be ashamed of. But if you look at their side, they had none of their internationals back, this week we are expecting more of them to play. We know Leinster are very physical up front and have some real strong ball-carriers.
"They are very confrontational in the way they play the game. They are simple and direct in their style. You have to front up to them, not be out-muscled, and win the battle of the gain-line. If you can't get go-forward (ball) against them you are going to find it hard.
"Having lost last week, they know they have to win their home game this week. And, whoever they have playing for them, we know it will be tough. You don't win the things they have won without a squad of quality."
Young has delayed naming his side until tomorrow and is waiting on fitness tests for full-back Ben Blair (knee), second-row Paul Tito (calf) and prop Gethin Jenkins (shoulder) but has Kiwi Michael Paterson, signed from Canterbury Crusaders, available to start at second-row or blindside wing-forward depending on the results of Tito's fitness test.
Young has vowed to make "three or four changes" to the side that downed Edinburgh and with a squad packed with Grand Slam-winning Welsh internationals and Lions players, alongside former All Blacks such as Blair and Xavier Rush, the Blues coach will utilise his strength in depth.
"We are determined this year, given it is the strongest squad we've had, to use it," said Young. "What we don't want is a first team and a second team where we play one team for four weeks and then pile in those who have been sitting it out. That's not the way to do things and we have stats to prove it.
"So what we will do week on week is make three or four changes without ripping the heart out of the team. The aim is to keep people fresh and give people opportunities.
"Later in the season, injuries and international call-ups might force our hands, but we have leeway at this stage and it is important we put strong teams out every week. So for the Leinster game, there will be three or four changes, but not 10 or 11."