As the end of the season begins to creep up on us, teams like Cardiff start to look at September and what the new season will hold. With any chances of making something from this season now dead and gone it’s time to look forwards and think about how ‘if we do this and that then we’ll definitely qualify for the Champions Cup next season!’
Of course squad make-up is one of, if not the most important aspect of this, and while Danny Wilson has spoken of his desire to cut down the size of the playing squad, he hasn’t yet addressed what he is thinking of doing when it comes to selecting our quota of six players that do not qualify for Team Wales. In the absence of this, I’m going to do it instead!
As things stand we currently have Salesi Ma’afu, Tau Filise, Jarrad Hoeata, Manoa Vosawai, Cameron Dolan, Rey Lee-Lo and Blaine Scully. Obviously that totals seven but Filise is currently registered with Cardiff RFC to get round this. However, I don’t see the option of registering nWq players with semi-pro clubs continuing for us as we effectively end our boosting of the club sides with free players. I do expect Filise to retire after his 87th season as a Cardiff player in May though, bringing an end to that practice.
You may think ‘brilliant, Filise will leave so then we’ll just have the six left!’ Bad news though, well good news, but bad news at the same time. With Nick Williams signing up from Ulster that nWq number tips back over the scales to seven, and we’re staring down the barrel of a big decision.
So who will be leaving? Contract-wise I think it will be Vosawai as far as I can work out. Scully, Lee-Lo and Dolan all signed minimum two-year deals last summer, Ma’afu joined for at least 18 months at Christmas, Williams is only joining at the end of the season and Hoeata signed a three-year deal in 2014. Vos though signed a two-year contract in 2014 which is coming to an end, leaving him in the prime position to leave.
Would that be the right thing for Cardiff? Well there’s two sides to the story. Firstly, I don’t think anyone would disagree that the big number eight has been magnificent for us this season. His hits and work rate in defence, as well as his ball carrying, has seen him win plenty of plaudits amongst us CAP faithful. On the flip side, with Williams signed up and neither player able to play anywhere other than eight, there are some that say despite Vosawai’s top performances it would be a waste to use up two nWq spots on the same position.
Personally, I would like to see them both in the squad next season. They are similar players, but the type of player to base the team around, and with them sharing the workload from number eight they can be that base each week. Yes, we would never see all six nWq players on the pitch at the same time, but with no other foreign players being seriously linked I don’t see why we couldn’t keep both players.
As I’ve now kept Vosawai I’d have to lose one of the other nWq players and, for me, it’d be Cam Dolan. It’s nothing against Dolan, I do think he seems a pretty good player, but he just has not had the chances I’m sure he would’ve liked, and with Sam Warburton, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi, Nick Williams, Manoa Vosawai and Josh Turnbull ahead of him in the pecking order, and Macauley Cook running him close, he’s just not going to get them. The first pro North American League commences this summer, and he think he’d be better off cutting his contract short and heading there.
Some big decisions coming up for Danny Wilson and co in the management team, and with the team still having a bit of sorting to do, they’ll have to get a move on. Other teams are making signings and we seem to be falling behind a bit as we still need to strengthen a number of positions, but I still trust in Danny and there’s still time to get the squad into shape. Come on Cardiff!!