Cardiff A play their first ever competitive British and Irish Cup match this weekend when they take on Nottingham RFC at the Arms Park. The BIC campaign is being used by the Welsh professional clubs to bridge the ever increasing gap between the Pro12 and Welsh Premiership, with the A teams entered being made up of mostly academy and young players, a few senior fringe players, and some of the better players in the Premiership.
Why A teams are the way forward: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/a-step-in-the-right-direction/
Our opponents in the first round of group games, Nottingham, who we’ve never played as far as I can work out, certainly not since 2003, have had a somewhat indifferent start to their English Championship season. It took for games before they got a win at Moseley, before a loss at Bedford sparked a three-game winning run. That was ended last week by an 11-17 home loss to Rotherham, leaving the green and whites in 6th place after nine games. With their 216 points working out at an average of 24 points a game, they aren’t any slouches in attack, but having conceded 221, the fourth most in the league, the defence leaves a bit to be desired. They could well be known as the Cardiff of the Championship!
While their head coach is well known, Martin Haag the former Bath and England lock, their playing staff isn’t exactly filled with star names. Their best player by some distance is former Otago captain and New Zealand Sevens international Paul Grant, who already has 11 tries in the 9 games this season, impressive for a winger, let alone a back row forward. Tonga international, and former Scarlet, Viliame Iongi is also a danger from the wing, but apart from that it is mainly domestic players in the squad.
While Nottingham have a good amount of the season under their belt and some form to assess them on, Cardiff A have all but nothing in that respect. Of course the senior academy players and fringe first team players train with each other a lot, but they rarely all play together, apart from two instances in the past year. Last season, Cardiff A lost to Ospreys A at home, 15-24, in a friendly arranged during the Autumn Internationals, followed by the same fixture last week in preparation for the BIC. That time it was a resounding 43-13 win for Cardiff, with Ben Roach crossing the line twice as Richard Hodges took charge of the team for the first time.
Cardiff A 43-13 Ospreys A: Match Report – https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/cardiff-a-43-13-ospreys-a/
Team news-wise, there are four changes to the team that played Ospreys in the friendly last week. Two forced changes as Jarrod Evans travels to Italy with the senior team, leaving Gareth Davies to start at fly-half, while Seb Davies disclocated his shoulder last week and is replaced at Chris Dicomidis. The other changes come in the form of Ethan Lewis starting at hooker ahead of Liam Belcher, and Richard Smith preferred to Geraint Walsh on the wing. Premiership players Marc Breeze, James Thomas and Will Rees-Hole are on the bench of a line-up that has a decent mix of youth and experience, just how it should be really.
Cardiff A team v Nottingham: 15 Harry Davies, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Adam Thomas, 11 Owen Jenkins, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones; 1 Bradley Thyer, 2 Ethan Lewis, 3 Scott Andrews, 4 Miles Normandale, 5 Chris Dicomidis, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Ben Roach, 8 Jevon Groves (c)
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Kieron Assiratti, 18 James Sheekey, 19 Shane Lewis Hughes, 20 Mike Hale, 21 James Thomas, 22 Will Rees-Hole
So, Richard Hodges and his men are ready to begin their first BIC campaign as Cardiff A, and it’s a big step forward in terms of the senior academy players stepping up to the senior squad, and for the future of Cardiff Blues in general. With the first team away in Italy, it’d be good to see a decent crowd at CAP for Nottingham’s visit, and to support the younger and fringe boys. The next thing I’ll say, I will say with a whisper…we could even be on for some silverware, come on Cardiff!
Cardiff A form – W Nottingham form – LLLWLWWWL
Cardiff A top try scorer – Ben Roach (2)
Nottingham top try scorer – Paul Grant (11)
Cardiff A top points scorer – Jarrod Evans (9)
Nottingham top points scorer – Dan Mugford (49)
Sean Gallagher (IRFU) – Young Irish level 3 referee Sean usually operates on the Ulster bank league and is a Pro12 touch judge, so as such has never taken charge of a Cardiff match. It will be a big occasion for the 26-year-old as he probably takes charge of a match outside of Ireland for the first time. Let’s be fair though, he can’t be worse than Leighton Hodges.