8:02am Thursday 16th January 2014
LOCK Robert Sidoli insists that tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup encounter with minnows Mogliano is a crucial stepping stone for a Newport Gwent Dragons outfit that are eyeing a strong finish to the season.
The Rodney Parade region should win with a bonus point at the Stadio Maurizio Quaggia but even that won't prevent Bath from securing Pool Two top spot and a place in the last eight.
However, Sidoli is looking at the bigger picture and says that league and cup encounters will make sure the Dragons are fully focused.
"While it may appear that there is not a lot on this game, there is in the long term," said the 34-year-old former Wales international.
"We are building towards the LV= Cup, in which we can still qualify from the group stages, and the RaboDirect Pro12, which we are going pretty well in.
"We've got a good squad tonight with some guys coming back from injury and others that haven't been involved a lot of late. They are really looking forward to this.
"And it's a game in which we can try a few things against a direct Mogliano side before going up against English competition which is traditionally heavy-set."
Sidoli has featured in all three fixtures against Mogliano over the past two European campaigns, including the 33-0 win in northern Italy in December 2012.
He knows that their hosts will be spirited and has called on his Dragons teammates to put a hugely disappointing performance in defeat to Bath, when overpowered 30-13 at Rodney Parade, behind them.
"Conditions were difficult last season," he said. "It was wet and the pitch was muddy, so that made it a tough game and one for the forwards.
"We've analysed Mogliano and they have an effective driving game but they also like to play a bit, as they did at Rodney Parade when it was quite a fast game.
"We have identified a few of their strengths but our main aim is to improve on the first 10 to 15 minutes of our performance against Bath.
"We had two clear opportunities to get off to a good start – an offload didn't go to hand and another pass went to ground – but didn't take them whereas Bath did.
"That meant the scoreboard didn't look good and we were under pressure, yet we had our own chances to be the team that got the upper hand. That's where the frustration is."
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