The Exiles look to bounce back against Italian league leaders
Martin Purdy has warned that London Welsh can ill afford to take I Cavalieri Prato ligthly, as the Exiles look to bounce back from their nightmare Amlin Challenge Cup debut at the hands of Stade Francais.
The Exiles were on the receiving end of rugby lesson from Stade at the Kassam Stadium, with the French side running in nine tries in a 68-19 win, but the London Welsh second row, who picked up a Heineken Cup winner’s medal with Wasps in 2003/04, knows that the Exiles must be on their game in Prato.
Purdy spent two seasons in Italy at Gran Parma and L’Aquila in the Super 10 and just as the Exiles were written off at the start of the season, only to so far prove their doubters wrong, Welsh must not fall into the trap of underestimating the Italians.
Purdy said: “Thankfully the game isn’t played on paper, but that also means that this week we have play properly otherwise Prato will turn us over.
“I was pleased I only got five minutes against Stade Francais the way we were getting an absolute drubbing, although the first two things I did led to tries for them. It wasn’t the best day at the office for anyone.
“Whether our attitude was wrong or we gave them too much respect, they pretty much beat us at every aspect of the game.
“We’ll look at the things we did that were technically wrong and correct them, but mainly it was an attitude thing. We’ve got to put that right and not concede 50 points again.”
I Cavalieri Prato also opened their Pool 5 Amlin Challenge Cup campaign with a heavy defeat, losing 56-3 away to Grenoble, but have made a good start to season domestically and currently sit top of Italy’s Super 10 after three rounds.
One familiar face in their line up on Saturday could be prop Guillermo Roan, who made 14 appearances, including scoring one try, for the Exiles last season on loan from Wasps.
But while Aviva Premiership survival may be the Exiles’ priority, Purdy has also stressed the importance of getting back to winning ways in Prato to build momentum ahead of the club’s Round 7 Premiership clash with Wasps at Adams Park.
“If you play badly in those other games it doesn’t help you in your Aviva Premiership campaign, because you’re then playing bad rugby and you’re not going back into the Premiership on a winning streak,” said Purdy, who joined Welsh in 2010 from L’Aquila.
“So it’s almost as important for us to have a good performance against Prato, so that by the time we play Wasps we’re rolling. We can’t relax because it has a knock on effect.”
Purdy joined Wasps in 2003 having come through the academy, and that season played a crucial role in the club’s Heineken Cup triumph, featuring in seven of Wasps’ nine games in the competition.
Adams Park on October 28, therefore, is a game Purdy, who spent seven years at Wasps and came through the club’s Academy, is understandably keen to force his way into the team for.
“The only time I’ve played against Wasps since was for Bath and I injured myself after about 15 minutes and had to come off at half-time. It was really frustrating; I would have loved to have played properly against them,” he said.
“It’s massively important for me to play well this weekend to earn that spot and try and get into the team for Wasps, and the games after that.”
Following seven years at Wasps he joined Bath in 2007, but was approached by Craig Dowd the following year to play in the Air New Zealand Cup for North Harbour. With no club in the Premiership to return to, Purdy found his way to Italy and Gran Parma and L’Aquila.
“Parma is a great city and it’s a great place to live – I really enjoyed it. I learnt Italian quickly, because I wanted to talk to girls, but the rugby wasn’t all that successful - we probably won only two games,” he said.
“It’s a different world. A lot of English players will go over to Italy and get frustrated. It’s a little bit more chilled out, but you just have to get on with your own stuff. It’s a different lifestyle, but I loved it.
“At L’Aquila our coach had a stroke in September and we ended up with a bit of a shambolic coaching set up, and we came eighth. It wasn’t a fantastic season either.
“On paper it looked like we were going to have a good team, but the game’s not played on paper, thankfully for London Welsh. If it was, we’d have lost every game according to a lot of people.”