Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas lauds caretaker coaches

By Nick WebbBBC Sport Wales
Peter Thomas
Chairman Peter Thomas has yet to name his permanent Blues coaching staff

Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas praised the caretaker coaching team of Gareth Baber and Justin Burnell after Friday's 26-20 win at Racing Metro.

The Pool 2 victory in Paris was the Welsh region's third Heineken Cup victory on French soil.

Thomas and his fellow board members will decide later in November whether to keep faith with the pair after the departure of Dai Young to Wasps.

"We've got a great combination there of Justin and Gareth," Thomas said.

"They've been around the scene for many years and they're hugely capable coaches.

"They work well with the squad and they've got a tremendous respect.

"They've come to France with the team they've coached and they've got a victory.

"Coming to France for 16 years, we've won a few but we've lost most so that victory was absolutely immense."

Burnell is by now well used to dealing with questions about the pair's extended audition for the head role at the region.

"We've been in position since the summer and we've worked hard, we're scoring tries and that's all we can keep doing," said the forwards coach.

"We're getting the work done in training and hopefully that'll show on the field.

"I thought some of the performances there [against Racing Metro] were world class."

The Blues will look to build on their good start in Europe when they host London Irish on Friday night, after the English side lost 19-20 at home to Edinburgh in the other Pool 2 match.

The Welsh region's summer recruitment had been minimal until the high-profile signing of Gavin Henson, but Thomas defended the strength of the Blues squad.

"We've got a good blend of youth and experience and we can see the results of the academy coming through now in boys like Alex Cuthbert, Andries Pretorius, and young Lloyd Williams, who had a terrific game, while I thought [Scotland fly-half] Dan Parks controlled the game beautifully," said Thomas.

Henson will have to wait a while for his return to the rugby spotlight, but his recovery from a broken wrist could help the Blues in their efforts to improve crowds at the Cardiff City Stadium.

However, Thomas insisted the signing was for rugby reasons and not with an eye on publicity.

"His wrist is still not quite right so it'll be a couple of weeks before he comes back," he said.

"Everyone has welcomed Gavin back into the fold and I'm sure he's going to make an immense contribution."

The Blues had hoped for the possibility that Shaun Edwards could job-share with Wales, but the defence coach has signed a new four-year deal with Wales.

Neither Edwards nor the Welsh Rugby Union have indicated a Blues role could be included in his work.

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