Cardiff Blues captain Ellis Jenkins is hoping that the start of the European Rugby Challenge Cup later this month will bring a change of fortunes for the two-time winners, after their early-season struggles in the PRO14.
The Blues have won only one of their five Conference B games so far this term, but the Challenge Cup holds nothing but the best of memories for the Cardiff squad, following their last-gasp 31-30 win over Gloucester Rugby in Bilbao in 2018.
“We’re looking forward to it as a team,” said Jenkins at today’s Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup launch in Cardiff.
“We’ve not got off to the best start this year, we’re not where we want to be, so this is a fresh competition and hopefully we’ll get back on track and get where we want to be in the remainder of the season.
“If you ask any Cardiff Blues player the highlight of their club career, the Challenge Cup win would be right at the top.
“Beating Pau in the semi-final in front of our home fans was brilliant and then it was a great occasion for the squad, all our families and our fans to come to Bilbao and beat Gloucester the way we did. It sticks in a lot of our memories as a real highlight.”
Cardiff face Pau again in the Challenge Cup this season, having been drawn alongside the French club, Italian side Rugby Calvisano and two-time European Cup winners Leicester Tigers in Pool 5 – and Jenkins is excited by the challenge.
“Obviously, we’ve had a couple of great games against Pau,” said the back-row forward, referring to that 16-10 semi-final success in 2018 and Cardiff’s 22-21 Pool 4 victory in France the previous season.
“Calvisano, we don’t get to play very often, so it’s a different challenge with them, and Leicester Tigers are one of the most famous clubs in European rugby. It’s something we’re really looking forward to, so hopefully there will be some great games.”
Jenkins, who skippered Cardiff to that win in Bilbao, is hoping that the return of the team’s Welsh internationals from the Rugby World Cup will boost the Blues’ fortunes.
“We’ll have a couple of the Welsh boys joining us in the next few weeks after the World Cup and hopefully they can really add to our training environment,” he said. “Once you get out of the pool, it’s knockout rugby and anything can happen.”
S4C will broadcast one live match per round during the pool stage, following an agreement with rights-holders BT Sport and EPCR, and the Blues’ home fixture against Leicester on November 23 has been chosen for Round 2.