The new and improved Cardiff Blues A team, or the ‘Premiership Select XV’, if you want, warms up for their first British and Irish Cup campaign with a friendly against their Ospreylian counterparts at Cardiff Arms Park on Wednesday evening, kick off 7.15pm.
Elite Performance Pathway Manager, Richard Hodges, takes charge of the team that contains a number of his current and former Academy players, as well as a few senior squad players in need of some playing time. The starting XV provides a nice blend a youth and experience, and hits the nail on the head in terms of what the A team should be.
Former Wales Sevens captain Jevon Groves leads the team from number 8, with Scott Andrews, Chris Dicomidis and Macauley Cook joining him in the pack, and Lewis Jones, Adam Thomas, and Geraint Walsh providing experience behind the scrum. They will be guiding the young players through the game as the development pathway continues for a lot of Cardiff youngsters.
Standing out in particular, from the younger members of the team looking to make their mark, are hooker Liam Belcher and lock Seb Davies, who both signed long term deals in March, fly-half Jarrod Evans, who started every game for Wales U20 at the Junior World Championship in the summer, and outside back Harry Davies, who was on the bench for the senior team in Munster. Also of note on a bench that has an average age of just under 20, is 17 year old centre Owen Lane, who has featured regularly for Cardiff RFC this season, and new academy signing Rhun Williams, the Wales U18 international signing from RGC in August.
Not much to go on and in the stats section, and of course they don’t really matter for A team friendlies, but there’s a few facts. Ospreys and Cardiff senior teams find themselves in 10th and 11th positions, respectively in the Pro12, after extremely disappointing starts to the season. Both will be hoping that returning World Cup stars can kickstart their seasons, and using these A games to keep fringe players fresh as well as blooding youngsters will be a help. In terms of history, there is a very tiny amount to go on, as in October last year, the two sides played the same friendly on a Monday night to get some fringe players fitness before the Autumn Internationals. It was a 15-24 win for the Swansea based team on that night, Will Baird and James Sheekey crossing the line for Cardiff. Only 13 of the players who turned out in blue that night will be involved on Wednesday though, out of a squad of 27, and I can’t imagine Ospreys will have many more, if any.
So it’s good to see the A team being used correctly already by Millard, Wilson and Hodges, and I’m certainly excited to see the youngsters given a chance to step up from the Premiership. Long may the development pathway continue, and eventually the young players it creates take Cardiff back to the top of Welsh and European rugby. Come on Cardiff!
Cardiff A team v Ospreys A: Backs: Harry Davies, Geraint Walsh, Garyn Smith, Adam Thomas, Owen Jenkins, Jarrod Evans, Lewis Jones.
Forwards: Jevon Groves (c), Ben Roach, Macauley Cook, Seb Davies, Chris Dicomidis, Scott Andrews, Liam Belcher, Brad Thyer.
Subs: Callum Lewis, Ethan Lewis, Dillon Lewis, Miles Normandale, Shane Lewis Hughes, Jordan Viggers, Mike Hale, Callum Hall, Chris Knight, Owen Lane, Elis Wyn Benham , Rhun Williams.