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What Cardiff make of 'slightly misfit group' preparing for Toulouse

By PA

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Gruff Rees says that Cardiff are in a surreal situation as they prepare to host the European champions Toulouse in the Champions Cup without more than 30 players. Cardiff have a party of 42 players and staff in isolation at a hotel just outside London until next week, but their challenge is built on a platform provided by a handful of Wales internationals such as Josh Adams, Tomos Williams, Ellis Jenkins, Dillon Lewis and Seb Davies.

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They did not travel to South Africa, which became a UK Government red-listed country as fresh travel restrictions were imposed following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant. Cardiff, Scarlets, Munster and Zebre Parma had all been due to play United Rugby Championship fixtures in the country before eventually securing charter flights home.

The Scarlets, who currently have 32 players in quarantine at a Belfast hotel, have forfeited Saturday’s scheduled Heineken Champions Cup game against Bristol.

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Tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) have confirmed a 28-0 scoreline in Bristol’s favour and an award of five match points to the Gallagher Premiership club. The Cardiff line-up against Toulouse, meanwhile, will also include a number of academy players and semi-professionals, with academy manager Rees heading up the Champions Cup coaching team.

“It is a surreal situation all round, really,” he said. “It has been really tricky, and obviously our thoughts are with the players and staff who have had to endure such difficult times, and (we are) trying to give them as much support as possible.

“We can’t hide away from the fact that it could be a daunting task against the best in the business, but one that actually can bring the best out of everyone. The last couple of weeks we have had that core group of players who were left behind. Then we added players to that last week to make 16-18, with a couple of fringe guys. Now, this week, a full working week, we have gone out to 32 players. So this, for us, is a normal training week in terms of numbers.

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“Obviously the demographic of the numbers is different, but we have had two really good intense sessions which I would akin to what professional rugby standards should be about. We have a slightly misfit group coming together. There is less pressure in some ways, but we have got that responsibility that whoever is on the field we are representing a great rugby club in a great competition.”

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