Bristol Rugby play their first European Rugby Challenge Cup game in nearly seven years against near rivals Cardiff Blues and back-row Olly Robinson insists everyone at the club is excited by the task ahead.
The last time Bristol played in the Challenge Cup – in the 2008-09 season – they finished second behind Northampton Saints in a group containing now three-time Champions Cup champions Toulon and Montpellier Hérault.
Cardiff defeated Bristol 25-24 in a high-intensity pre-season fixture and despite the Pro12 side then racking up four consecutive wins to start their league campaign with a bang and Bristol bottom of Aviva Premiership Rugby, Robinson is enthused by the potential to excel in Europe.
“We are looking forward to bringing a real energy to Bristol’s first European game in seven years, everyone wants to play in Europe and it is exciting to get that opportunity,” the 25-year-old back-row said.
“We played Cardiff in pre-season and had a really good game against them. They have had a great start in the Pro 12.
“It was a tough loss for them last week [against the Ospreys] but apart from that they have been going well and are going to be a real challenge for us – as are Bath the week after. It is two local derbies we are looking forward to.
“It is a massively exciting opportunity for us now in our next games to really put a marker down and keep bringing the same intensity we brought in the second half of the Newcastle game and be able to pick up some wins and score some good tries.”
Cardiff have a host of Welsh international stars to call upon – Tom James, Alex Cuthbert and Cory Allen to name a few – but Robinson, son of director of rugby Andy, is confident Bristol can neutralise the Capital side’s threats.
“They could probably fill a side with 15 internationals, their back-row is very good – Nick Williams, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi and Sam Warburton when he is fit.
“They have some real excitement in the backs, Matthew Morgan, who we know well from last year and is a very exciting player. They have got threats all over the pitch and it is just about us turning up and bringing massive energy and intensity.
“Our performances in the Aviva Premiership have been improving and we are a bounce of the ball away in two games from being on nine points and really in touch with everyone around us.
“I don’t think we are too far away and we have a massive self-belief that we can keep going and the wins will come.”