Cardiff Blues vs Stade Toulousain

Head to Head

No game between Cardiff and Toulouse can take place without evoking memories of that first European Cup final back in 1996. A bitterly cold day when most other fixtures were called off, the game was played at The National Stadium as it then was. Let’s not dwell too long on the result. Since then, Toulouse have enjoyed less than fruitful visits to the Welsh capital, having lost all three subsequent games. In October 2000, another barnstorming performance by Dan Baugh led the team to a 26-17 victory. Nine years later, it was Cardiff again running out victors in a European Cup Quarter Final. And then in the following season, Cardiff chalked up a victory at the soccer stadium in Leckwith. So all four previous games played between these two teams in Wales were actually played on four different pitches.

The Coaches

For a remarkable 22 years between 1993 and 2015 Guy Novès was the head coach at Toulouse. From there, he went on to coach the national team and his place was taken by Ugo Mola. Whilst Mola has build a formidable fortress in Toulouse, his team’s away form is less than impressive, having only won eight times in over two years. Away wins are a rarity in the geographically challenged Top 14, though interestingly enough, Toulouse have one of the better away records in the competition. Danny Wilson’s tenure at Cardiff is coming to a close and he probably has less than a dozen games left as coach. Whilst progress has been made under his tutelage, his team so far remain nearly men – close, but not close enough. His 47% win ratio is less than impressive and already this season his team has conceded 60 tries – in 7 out of the previous 14 season, more than for an entire season.

The Referee

29 year old Ian Tempest is one of the youngest referees in the Aviva Premiership. He’s refereed Cardiff three times, including a disappointingly weak performance in Montpellier two seasons ago. In 11 games this season, Tempest has brandished two reds and six yellow cards. Although he’s yet to take charge of 40 Aviva Premiership fixtures and so does not appear on our top 10 list, a 72.5% home win ratio would make him one of the biggest homers in the league.

Attack

Toulouse are a mid-table team in the Top14 this season. They are averaging 2.3 tries scored per game against Cardiff’s 2.72. The visitors offloading game is one of the best in the Top 14, averaging 13 per fixture. This is in start contrast to Cardiff’s figure of 8 per game. This trend is in-keeping with the differences between the two leagues.

Set Piece

At the scrum, both teams boast 90% plus success rates , though Toulouse’s 82% success in the lineout is less than impressive.  At the corresponding fixture in Toulouse, the home team lost a number of strikes against the head, registering a 65% success ratio.

Defence

A disastrous 2016-17 season saw Cardiff conceded almost 3.5 tries per game on average. Although the defence has improved a little this season, they are still conceding more than three a game. There’s been a steady deterioration in Toulouse’s defence in recent years, but they are only conceding 2.11 tries per game this season. Toulouse have a steady – if unspectacular – tackle record, as do Cardiff. Last season – no doubt still suffering from the transition from Novès to Mola, they suffered one of their worst defensive performances in recent years, conceding over 550 points in the Top 14.

Discipline

If supporters are sometimes frustrated by the way yellow cards distort games in the Pro14, we should sympathise with followers of the Top14. On average, one card per game is issued by officials in the Pro14 – a total of 91 so far this season. In the Top 14, 1.6 cards – on average – area awarded per game. Toulouse – like Cardiff – area serial offenders, so it’ll be surprising if Mr Tempest does not send someone from the pitch this weekend.

Prediction

Both these teams are mid-table dwellers – evenly matched across the pitch (as the closeness of the result in Toulouse indicated). The visitors will secure a bonus point, but will ultimately fall short and lose 17-10.

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