Press Pass: Blair on Castres and Champions Cup rugby
Get the latest from Head Coach Mike Blair as he spoke with media in the build-up to Saturday's Heineken Champions Cup Round 2 match against Castres at DAM Health Stadium (17 December, kick-off 1pm).
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On injuries following Saracens
“We’re just waiting on Mark Bennett – he had his HIA. I think everyone else pulled through OK.”
On what he expects from Castres
“They’re a really competitive team. They’re not a team of stars, but they got to the Top 14 final last year.
“They play really well, cohesively, as a unit. Their defence is excellent. And they’ve got a little bit of stardust in there – a couple of Fijian players and a couple of other players with real X Factor. So they’re going to be a really difficult team this week.”
On French teams ‘struggles’ on the road
“I think it changes a bit with the bigger games. When I played there, there were definitely some away games when players were rested or not as motivated.
“But Champions Cup games, especially when they lost their first game at home, I think they’ll be really motivated for this week.”
On the danger of Castres’ Fijian stars
“It adds that X Factor element, certainly. There is Vilimoni Botitu and Leone Nakarawa who we obviously know really well, and they do have that stardust amongst them.
“But I would say it’s probably less about their individuals, and more about their cohesive group that they have got. They seem to have a real desire to work for each other.”
On the potential of switching to BT Murryfield
“That’s the back-up. We’re still hopeful that it will go ahead at the DAM Health, but we’re pretty fortunate that we’ve got BT Murrayfield as back-up.
“We played pretty well against Glasgow at BT Murrayfield last season – the fans really got behind us and we put a really strong performance in. We do like playing at DAM Health Stadium as well, though.
“I’m conscious that before we played Glasgow last time that a few of our players said it was a shame that we were not playing at the DAM Health. But then as soon as we ran out on the pitch at BT Murrayfield you could feel a real buzz amongst the supporters and the players as well.
“So if the game is moved for that reason, then we just get on with it and I expect us to rise to the occasion and the crowd to really get behind us as they do at the DAM Health.”
On this year’s Champions Cup format
“It’s a complicated system, but it just means that your job is a little bit easier. Win as many games as you can, and don’t worry too much about the difference in the match points, all these kind of things.
“There’s going to be a really clear focus for us. We’ve got Castres at home, having played pretty well last week. In our review we talked about keeping on top of the things that we did well, but also stretching our learning and our improvements by adding extra layers to it as well.”