With the 2015/16 season done and dusted for the Cardiff Blues the attention of us fans now turns to next season and exciting times to come. However for others there is the matter of a Summer International window and a few weeks of rugby during June to just wear the players out even more. Of course there’s a fair bit of representation from the club so let’s go through who’s off to where….
We’ll start at home with Warren Gatland’s men heading off to the biggest test in World Rugby, a tour of New Zealand. There will be three matches against the All Blacks as well as a tour match against Super Rugby’s Chiefs, all preceded by a money making exercise against England at Twickenham.
With the squad Old Gatland has truly outdone himself by picking his usual favourites, with no uncapped or any in form players included who have been touted over the past few weeks. In Cardiff terms this means Ellis Jenkins is the main casualty after a fantastic season, particularly after returning from injury in January. He has been left out along with James Davies of Llanelli and former Cardiff youngster Thomas Young, now at Wasps, with only one recognised number seven in the squad.
The seven is of course Sam Warburton who will captain the side out in New Zealand and he’s joined by fellow stalwart Gethin Jenkins in the ‘expected’ category. Meanwhile Josh Turnbull is rewarded for a fantastic season and I really hope he gets a chance to shine while on tour. Kristian Dacey on the other hand was a slightly surprise selection in my book as I thought his lack of game time might count against him, but Gatland’s has chosen to go with experience over Newport’s Elliott Dee. Just hope for both Dacey and Turnbull’s sakes that there is minimal amounts of time spent tackle-bag holding.
Into the backs and there are three names that anyone would struggle to leave out from Cardiff in Lloyd Williams, Gareth Anscombe and Tom James. Having said that though none of those are shoe-ins at all for the Test matchday 23 and I do think that’s a shame. These views may be through rose-tinted glasses but I honestly believe Lloyd Williams is the second best Welsh scrum-half, behind Rhys Webb and ahead of Gareth Davies. Tom James also deserves a proper chance to play after being dropped for the made up reason of ‘not being match sharp’ during the Six Nations. Eleven tries this season says it all.
Finally I think Gareth Anscombe is the second best Welsh fly-half behind Dan Biggar and ahead of Rhys Priestland, and he needs to be playing internationally at stand-off as his future is not at full-back. One good thing I hope comes out of the tour whoever is picked though is that Anscombe and future Cardiff player Matthew Morgan, also selected for Wales, form a good relationship over the summer so that their 10/15 partnership can hit the ground running in September at the Arms Park.
Away from Wales and into the South Sea Islands next as centre Rey Lee-Lo is selected by Samoa for their friendly against Georgia before the Pacific Nations Cup 2016 against Fiji and Tonga. Despite a slow start in Cardiff after joining late following the World Cup he has settled in fantastically after Christmas and really flourished in the 12 jersey, forming an excellent partnership with Anscombe. I’m sure he will play a big part in Manu Samoa’s summer campaign and I look forward to following it. Go well Rey!
Back home to a team spending the summer a bit closer to Wales but by no means having a less important International window. The Wales U20 side, fresh from winning the Grand Slam in March will head to the North of England for this year’s Junior World Championship. In the squad are nine current and one future Cardiff Blues youngsters as Jason Strange has selected Corey Domachowski, Kieron Assirratti, Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Seb Davies, Morgan Sieniawski, Jarrod Evans, Harri Millard and Rhun Williams.
What is most impressive is that you can name an entire Cardiff tight five from that list, as well as Rhun Williams, arriving from RGC 1404 after the tournament, earned plenty of plaudits for his performances at full-back during the U20 Six Nations. As Danny Wilson seems prepared to give these guys a chance in the senior squad there is plenty for them to play for in June and if they live up to their potential it will be an exciting time for Wales and Cardiff.
Great Britain Sevens
A bit of a special event this summer sees a new addition to the rugby calendar, well a new, old addition really. Rugby returns to the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 for the first time since Paris 1924, but this time it is in it’s shortened version of the game. Team GB head coach Simon Amor has selected a 25-man training squad made up of mostly full-time English and Welsh sevens players complimented by some 15s professionals, one of which happens to be our own Cory Allen.
After missing the second half of the season with a thigh injury he was not picked by Warren Gatland for the tour of New Zealand, instead being given the chance to try out for the Olympics during a seven-week training period across June and July, taking in four sevens tournaments. Should he impress enough he will head to Brazil in early August and hope to earn a British medal.
On a selfish level I can’t see I’m thrilled Allen has been selected as I’d much prefer he spent June and July on holiday before joining Cardiff Blues pre-season in August fit and ready to go. However, he will now likely miss the start of next season but will at least have a chance to regain some serious fitness. Having said that, I can’t deny it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Cory and I wish him all the best.
While we wait to hear if Blaine Scully and Cam Dolan are selected for the USA in their summer internationals all that’s left to say is good luck to all Cardiff players out and about during June, and please don’t get injured!!