Wales’ two in-form sides go head-to-head in the Guinness PRO12’s first Big Weekend of the season, and Cardiff Blues scrum-half Lloyd Williams insists there is far more than regional rivalry to play for against Ospreys on Friday night.
They may be the only Welsh side in the top four, but four wins from their first five games have given the Blues more than a solid start to the campaign, with their first blemish coming against Leinster last week.
Danny Wilson’s side sit just three points off early pace-setters Ulster – the only unbeaten side left in the competition – but the Ospreys are hot on their heels despite losing out to the leaders at the Kingspan Stadium last week.
And that gives an extra edge to this the first Welsh encounter of the season, although Williams insists the Blues are more than capable of holding their own when they visit the Liberty Stadium.
“Leinster last week was definitely a game we could’ve won. The game showed we’re going in the right direction. It was just one of those games that fell on the wrong side for us on the day,” said the 26-year-old.
“We haven’t come that close to beating Leinster in a while. But I’m not saying that’s something we can accept, because we didn’t by any means. We’re still playing some good rugby and it’s just small things we need to adjust and change.
“They had a good performance out in Ulster last week and it’s going to be a big task for us on Friday. We know what’s ahead of us.”
This season sees the Guinness PRO12 launch into six Big Weekends of regional rugby battles, with Scarlets and the Newport Gwent Dragons also facing off on Saturday in the other all-Wales clash.
And while he is keen to make the most of the occasion, Williams believes his side have the mental nous to handle whatever is thrown at them by the Ospreys – a side they have not beaten since November 2013.
“The good thing is everyone has played there before and experienced the atmosphere at the Liberty, so it’s not going to be anything new,” he said.
“They’ve got some big players who play well and we’ve got to try to take that away from them.
“It’s good that we’re playing such a big game so early in the season. But I don’t think it matters whether you play a derby on the first or last day of the season – they’re always going to be big occasions, and massive chances for us as a region to take another step forward.
“It’s a big one for the fans as well. We haven’t beaten the Ospreys in a while and there are a lot of people itching to change that.”
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
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