Wales coach Shaun Edwards says his London Wasps side will be facing some of the world’s best players when they take on Cardiff Blues this weekend.
The Blues travel to Wycombe for their Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final on the back of five successive victories and with two trophies still very much in their sights.
Victory on Saturday night would catapult the Welsh capital outfit into their first European final since the inception of regional rugby, while a bonus-point win over Munster a week later would guarantee a Magners League Play-Off spot that looked all but a distant dream just a few weeks ago.
And Edwards, who coaches many of the Blues line up on international duty, admits such a return to form is hardly surprising given his view that a number of the current Blues squad have few equals in the global game.
“We’re playing against a Cardiff Blues team that are full of internationals – it’s like a who’s who of rugby really,” said Edwards.
“They’re a fantastic team and they’re full of talented players. The Blues are the form team in Wales at the moment.
“They’ve got some guys who are in the top few players in the world and one who’s the top player in the world, in my opinion, in Gethin Jenkins.
“I think he’s the best loosehead in the world and they’ve got some other outstanding players who could be rated in the top four in five in the world. They’re a really formidable opponent.
“A little bit like us, they’ve had there problems this season but when they have a full squad fit they’re a force to be reckoned with.
“Let’s be honest, last year they could’ve and should’ve been in the Heineken Cup Final.”
Edwards has openly made the Blues favourites for the Adams Park showdown, and, with Dai Young’s men having picked up four successive away wins, it’s perhaps not a great shock to hear Edwards play down talk of home advantage.
The former Rugby League star does admit that Saturday’s game will be extra special, however, due to his close working relationship so many of the Blues’ Welsh international contingent.
“I don’t really go for home advantage much – it’s just a pitch,” added Edwards.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased to be playing at home in front of our own fans and, hopefully, there’ll be a healthy crowd there and we can give them some entertainment and finish on the right end of the scoreline.
“We know it’s going be a very tough game but we desperately want to win it.
“I think it does have a little bit of extra spice – I wouldn’t deny that – because of the coaching.
“The way I’ve been accepted by the Welsh people, they’ve been very warm to me and very friendly, so it does have little more spice, yeah. Plus it’s a semi-final so you don’t really need any more spice than that.”
Scrum-half Richie Rees is out injured for the Blues, so Darren Allinson wears the No9 shirt, while Deniol Jones partners captain Paul Tito in the second row a week after becoming the leading appearance maker in Magners League history,
London Wasps vs Cardiff Blues, Adams Park, Saturday, 6pm
London Wasps: M van Gisbergen, P Sackey, B Jacobs, D Waldouck, D Lemi, D Walder, J Simpson, T Payne, R Webber, P Vickery, S Shaw, G Skivington, J Worsley, T Rees [capt], D Ward-Smith
Replacements: T Lindsay, B Baker, S Taulafo, J Hart, S Betsen, D Cipriani, S Kefu, T Varndell
Cardiff Blues: B Blair, L Halfpenny, C Laulala, J Roberts, C Czekaj, C Sweeney, D Allinson, G Jenkins, T Thomas, F Filise, D Jones, P Tito [capt], M Molitika, M Williams, X Rush
Replacements: G Williams, J Yapp, S Andrews, B Davies, S Warburton, D Flanagan, D Hewitt, R Mustoe