With transfer season now well underway Cardiff have been adding players and coaches to the squad and staff right through the Christmas period as Danny Wilson continues to build a very impressive looking squad and club setup for the 2016/17 season.
Comings and Goings – Part One : https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/comings-and-goings/
Following the signing of Salesi Ma’afu covered in the first episode of ‘comings and goings’, Cardiff further strengthened the Southern Hemisphere contingent with the news that Nick Williams would be joining from Ulster at the end of the season. The big number 8, who was played with the New Zealand U20 side the ‘Baby Blacks’, has signed on an initial two-year deal and will arrive at the Arms Park with plenty of Pro12 experience following four years with the Ulstermen, making 70 appearances and scoring 14 tries.
Of course, Williams is most famous in Cardiff for his cheap shot on Patchell at Ravenhill last season that left the fly-half unable to remember a few days previous to the game, but I think it’s fair to say you’d rather have a tough bloke like that on your side than against you. His ball carrying and leadership would be an asset to any side, despite the face that at 32 he is on the older side. He does suffer from an injury niggle or two, but managed correctly he will certainly be an asset as he won’t be called away for international duty at all.
He does though throw up an interesting point regarding non-Welsh qualified players. At the moment there are six allowed per squad. We currently have seven but get around it as each Welsh Premiership side are allowed two nWq players, so Tau Filise is registered with Cardiff RFC. Although Filise will almost certainly retire at the end of the season, with Cardiff Blues stopping the free flow of players to the Premiership clubs we may not be able to use their nWq spots. We could always offload a nWq player or two, the Americans for example haven’t exactly set the Pro12 alight, and Manoa Vosawai may well now look to move on given Williams is such a similar player. I however would like to see both Vos and Nick in the squad and playing kind of every other to keep them fresh, but that may be wishful thinking. Although not as wishful as the hope of Nick’s brother Tim Nanai-Williams joining him, or even cousin Sonny Bill!
Joining Nick Williams next season will be a player from a bit closer to home as Matthew Morgan comes back to Wales from over the bridge. The fly-half/full-back announced a few weeks ago that he was leaving Bristol at the end of the season to return in a bid to further his international prospects, and it was probably the worst kept secret in rugby he was arriving at the Arms Park, although there were brief talks with Newport.
As we all know, Morgan is a very exciting runner with a brilliant turn of pace and a wicked side step. Just like Danny Wilson has said, Morgan’s running on our plastic pitch will be a sight to see! As a player comfortable at both 10 and 15, he is a more or less direct replacement for the Llanelli-bound Rhys Patchell, and will be used more at 15 where he is happy to play, unlike Patchell. He can also kick well and has scored 325 in his Bristol career thus far.
With Morgan at 15 alongisde the likes of Tom James and Cory Allen we will hopefully be a fast-paced attacking side come next season. If Morgan did step up to 10 and Dan Fish came in at 15 then I think we’d have the quickest back line in the league! Danny Wilson is certainly making some well needed signings in the right positions, and signings which could put trophies in cabinets and subsequently bums on seats.
As well as on the pitch signings, Danny Wilson has also been strengthening his backroom staff, and brought in a man he believes capable of whipping that exciting looking backline into shape. Bristol coach Matt Sherratt has signed on for next season with the attack and backs brief, where he will again link up with Wilson and Matthew Morgan. A young coach with an academy background he will hopefully be able to replicate the free scoring Bristol attack we have seen over the past few years on the Pro12 and European stage, with some free-flowing midfield play, and also be able to bring through the next crop of Cardiff backs.
Sherratt’s arrival has been facilitated by a back room shuffle which sees Paul John being re-housed as the Skills Coach where he will work with both the senior and academy squads, alongside studying for a masters degree in communication and decision making in rugby. On the other side of the coaching team, Graham Steadman will continue as defence coach, assisted by Richard Hodges, while Danny Wilson doubles up as head and forwards coach.