Bristol Rugby: Ferguson knows it'll be tough at Cardiff
TRYING to second-guess which Cardiff players Bristol will face this weekend is a bit like selecting lottery numbers – the Blue & Blacks have used 46 different players in their seven Welsh Premiership matches this season.
But Bristol scrum coach Matt Ferguson, who worked with Cardiff Blues before linking up with Liam Middleton's coaching team, is sure about one thing: regardless of who plays, Bristol will be in for a battle.
Among those who have featured for Cardiff this term are 15 contracted Cardiff Blues players, and, although the Blues are in Heineken Cup action at Sale on Sunday, Ferguson expects a strong Cardiff XV to face Bristol in the British & Irish Cup a day earlier.
"Obviously, I've got a little bit of an in there through my previous role, and I think understanding the relationship and how regional rugby works has allowed us a bit of an understanding there," said Ferguson.
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"Cardiff RFC are a separate club to Cardiff Blues, but in the same way that Bristol lend players to Clifton and Dings, the Blues lend players into Cardiff RFC's team.
"For example, there was one game this season where they fielded a full pack of Cardiff Blues forwards, eight full-time professionals who are part of the Blues system.
"There were six who played last week – five of those were part of the Welsh Under-20s team that beat New Zealand in the World Cup.
"To analyse, we know to expect to face a very competent and good team on Cardiff Arms Park, which is one of the iconic rugby venues of the world.
"We know what to expect and what we need to do now is make sure that we bring our game to the party as well and look to execute the hard work we've done on the training field."
One player Bristol could come up against this weekend is 19-year-old winger Harry Robinson, who was capped by Wales in the summer but has been used by Cardiff in recent weeks.
"If you look at the players who have been playing for them recently, there are number of boys there who have got international experience and first-team experience," said Ferguson.
"Harry Robinson has been playing on the wing for Cardiff RFC and he has been capped by Wales, so it gives you an idea of the calibre of players we could potentially be meeting.
"But that's fantastic for us, because we want this game to be another chance for us to be challenged and tested, and for us to get better. There will also be a number of boys there who I have coached and worked with, and it will be great to catch up with them – hopefully after a victory for Bristol."
Bristol have lost their last three Championship matches but have vowed to take the British & Irish Cup seriously this season, so are expected to send a strong 22 to the Welsh capital on Saturday (2.30pm).
Bristol, meanwhile, have this week been helped out by St Bede's Catholic College, who stepped in to let them use their 3G artificial surface when the pitches at Bristol's Clifton RFC base were waterlogged.