RAYER LOOKS AHEAD TO NOTTINGHAM

Bedford Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer is in a positive mood following training on Tuesday night as his charges prepare for the sixth and final pool game of the British & Irish Cup against Nottingham on Saturday afternoon.
 
The trip to Wales last Friday saw the Blues return with a hard-fought win, but it also came at a cost with injuries to Ollie Dodge and Harry Sheppard who could be side-lined for a few weeks after both suffered knocks to their shoulder.
 
"The injuries to Dodgey and Harry took a little bit of the shine off the performance last weekend," said Rayer. "Both lads are in good spirits but they are due to have scans this week when hopefully we'll know a bit more about the extent of the injuries before we work with the medical team to get them back into action.
 
"We had a disappointing start against Ospreys last Friday and we certainly can't blame the journey as we planned ahead as best we could. A combination of the Ospreys getting stuck into us and some different interpretations of the laws from the referee put us off our stride a little bit but I was really pleased, particularly in the second half, that we problem solved this and the bench had a massive impact on the game.
 
"In the end we did just enough to get the win and it was pleasing that we were able to shut them out. It would have been nice to have got a bonus point, but in the end we were more than grateful to get four and then jump on the bus and get out of there!"
 
Having had a game postponed, Nottingham need two bonus point victories to have any chance of progressing from the pool stages of the competition and Rayer is very wary of the threat that our East midland rivals pose and certainly won't be taking anything for granted come kick-off at 2pm on Saturday.
 
"We're all looking forward to the contest as when the pools were drawn, this was a really daunting looking group but the fact that we are heading into the final game with qualification very much in our own hands is testament to what the lads have done so far this season.
 
"We've had three good away wins in the cup along with the home victory but we know that Nottingham are always tough opponents who will really want to put in a good performance. They have an impressive pack and some backs who like to move the ball around quickly and can attack from anywhere.
 
"The lads are excited for this weekend and are determined to get the result we need to get into the quarter-final. We've got a toe in there already but we really want to put in a big performance and burst in there, not limp."
 
Looking back on the first half of the season, Rayer said: "The start we had to the season, particularly the first three games, put us in good stead going forward. We're a little disappointed to have been on the end of some narrow defeats, but we've won a few the same way so it all balances out and is probably a fair reflection on where we are in the Championship.
 
"Now it's about getting stronger. Traditionally, once we get through this period where the weather is bad and pitches are particularly heavy, we tend to back ourselves. It's about finding a way to win during this period and keeping confidence high. There is undoubted talent in this squad and we've got a great group of lads who work hard together on the pitch and in training. If we keep working and keep delivering then we will get results.
 
"We place a lot of emphasis on player development and I'm sure that some teams will be looking at our players and if there is interest then it is a reflection on how hard players have worked and how much they've bought into what we are doing. If the time comes for players to move on up then we'll give them a pat on the back and wish them every success in the future."
 
Don't forget that Saturday's game is included in your Bedford Blues Season Ticket. Otherwise, you can still buy discounted tickets for Saturday's game at www.bedfordrugby.co.uk and help cheer the lads on as they look to book a quarter-final place.