Welsh lads will give us tips on Cardiff, says Bristol Rugby's Matt Sherratt
MATT Sherratt believes Bristol's strong Welsh contingent can give them some crucial inside knowledge ahead of Sunday's British & Irish Cup pool finale against Cardiff.
Bristol need a point against the Blue & Blacks – who have not taken a point from five Pool One games – to guarantee their place in the quarter-finals, while victory would secure a home tie in the last eight.
Welshmen Ross Johnston, Rhys Lawrence, James Merriman, Matthew Jones, Tom Slater and Ryan Edwards are all part of Bristol's squad – and they understand the kind of mentality Cardiff will take into an Anglo-Welsh tussle on English soil.
Bristol coach Sherratt said: "Our Welsh boys give us a good insight into some of the personnel who are likely to be playing.
"Because of the dynamics of the Welsh set-up, the boys do all know each other, so there's a lot of chat between our Welsh players and some of their players.
"It gives us a little bit of a heads-up. Rhys Lawrence spoke to me before we played Bridgend and he said that it's true that when a Welsh team play an English team – and he can remember this from junior rugby – it adds a bit of edge for them.
"He said it would be something that they would talk about in the changing room to put a bit more fire in their bellies, so knowing that helps keep our boys' minds tuned to the task."
Sherratt believes Cardiff, who supply many players to the Cardiff Blues regional team, are a much better side than their British & Irish pool record would suggest.
"Cardiff are a good side – they've got some quality there," he said. "Two of the players we faced last time we played them were playing for the Blues against Toulon in the Heineken Cup last weekend.
"Because they're almost a feeder club to the Blues, there are a lot of young players – and because of that youth you get a bit of exuberance, so they will try to play. They haven't got anything to play for in the competition, but that almost makes them more dangerous.
"They'll have a young team who can go out and throw the ball around, and, if conditions allow, I think it will be a pretty open game. In terms of style of play and intensity, they'll bring a very real threat to us.
"I think it's been proved in the Championship this season that, if you take your eye off the ball, a team can get a bit of confidence – and if one team is ten per cent more motivated than the other, strange things can happen."
Bristol's players will try not to let their minds stray to next weekend's key Championship clash with Leeds at the Memorial Stadium – a game for which the ramifications of defeat do not bear thinking about – and Sherratt believes the Cardiff and Leeds fixtures can complement each other.
"We need to, as we've done so far in this competition, use this game to build momentum into Leeds – but we've got to focus on Cardiff first," he said. "A good win against Cardiff would give us a home quarter-final and puts the B&I Cup to bed for a little while. I think it's important for the confidence of the squad that we back up the good result we got in Belfast.
"It's a case of using Cardiff to build our confidence and momentum. I think the Leeds game will be in the back of everyone's minds because they are the next big home Championship game."
Bristol are in the position of requiring only one point this weekend to reach the last eight because of an impressive 14-8 win over Ulster Ravens in Belfast a week ago and have five wins from five in the B&I Cup.