After a thrilling last-minute victory over Newport in the final game of the Welsh Leg, Cardiff head to Coventry on Sunday to contest the Final of the Singha Premiership 7s at the Ricoh Arena, home of Wasps Rugby.
Cardiff Blues Premiership 7s Welsh Leg Report: https://cardiffbluesblog.com/2016/07/24/cardiff-premiership-7s-report/
Head Coach Richard Hodges has made five changes to the squad, four of which have been enforced upon him. Dane Blacker, Ben Thomas, Ben Jones and Jim Botham have all been called up to Wales U18’s tour of South Africa, while Geraint Walsh has not been selected likely due to the fact that Pontypridd RFC’s pre-season starts six days later.
In their places come Morgan Sieniawski, Ceri Young, Ethan Davies, Jonny Lewis and Aron Wyn Evans. You may not have heard of most, or all, of these players likely as only Sieniawski is a Cardiff contracted player and he is a tier 2 academy player while the others are all invitational players and have been profiled below.
In terms of opponents we have been drawn against the runners-up in the Northern group, Sale Sharks. The Manchester side went out at the Cup quarter-final last year to eventual winners Newport, going on to lose to Exeter in the Plate final. Despite qualifying four times for the final stage they have never made the Cup final.
During this year’s group stage they started with a tough 12-31 loss to Newcastle, but bounced back brilliantly to hammer Leicester and Worcester by scores of 55-7 and 31-0, respectively. The undoubted star of the show was a new young signing from the Tigers, Paolo Odogwu. The XVs winger scored eight tries on the night and will really have to be stopped if we want to progress in the Cup.
Sale’s squad is made up entirely of young players, but crucially players that are contracted to the club even if they do only play for the A side. Of course the willingness of a young player to impress and the bond of a team that plays together are strengths that the Sharks side will possess, however the Cardiff team has an abundance of sevens experience to it.
Fans may remember the last time we qualified for the final two years ago that we played the runner-up of the Northern group on that occasion as well, Leicester. Beating them 19-14 we then lost to Gloucester in the semi-final 14-24 as the West Country side went on to win the tournament.
Only Garyn Smith, Dan Fish and Tomos Williams remain Cardiff players from that squad, although Owen Jenkins and Ben Roach will again represent us, as the competition has not been the stepping stone to senior XV rugby it was hoped to be. As 7s has drifted ever further from XVs the only advantage of remaining in the tournament is monetary and a foot in the door with the English teams.
Depending on the outcome of our game with Sale we will go on the play the winners or losers of Exeter v Northampton, with Ospreys, Newcastle, Harlequins and Wasps forming the other half of the draw.
Here is the 2016 Premiership 7s Final squad as selected by Richard Hodges, Paul John and Billy Millard;
Adam Thomas (c) – Made 24 Cardiff appearances since 2014 before being released at the end of last season. The centre/full-back had spent all his career at Pontypridd apart from a year in Southland before that. Another former Wales 7s captain and still involved at 29. Started all three games in the group stages, scoring one excellent try vs Ospreys.
Ben Roach – Many of us thought the flanker would get a chance in the Cardiff Blues XVs squad at some point, but has instead chosen to take a Wales 7s central contract. The 22 year old only made five substitute LV Cup appearances alongside some Cardiff A games. Two group stage starts and a substitute appearance, plus run-in try last time out.
Owen Jenkins – Another player released by Cardiff last season after eight appearances since graduating from the academy. Spent most of his time on the wing at allocated club Pontypridd in recent years. The 23 year old has now taken a full-time Wales 7s contract. An eventful night in the group stages as three starts saw three tries and two yellow cards.
Declan Williams – Treorchy product Williams is another fly-half but one who is equally comfortable at centre and full-back. Also a Coleg Y Cymoedd player the 18 year old has Wales U18 honours and will be one to watch with the junior Cardiff squads. Appeared off the bench in all three group stage games, bagging a conversion against each Ospreys and Llanelli.
Joe Tomlinson – Started his rugby career in the Cardiff Blues academy before moving on to Cardiff RFC via Cardiff Metropolitan University. Has made 38 Rags appearances in two years, and also turned out for Cardiff A last season. Aged 23, a hooker in XVs rugby. Featured sparsely in the group stages but scored a very important try vs Newport.
Luke Crocker – The former Wales 7s captain has signed for Cardiff RFC this summer after spending last season with Ebbw Vale. At 26 he has also played for Beddau, Pontypridd and Newport A at flanker. Still involved with the national 7s over the last few months. Made a big impact off the bench vs Ospreys and Llanelli before starting against Newport in the group stages.
James Beal – Not much is known about the new Cardiff RFC signing. Spent many years at Cardiff Metroplitan University scoring plenty of tries from the wing in the Championship and captaining the students. Has recently represented Great Britain Universities at 7s. Was impressive in the group stages despite not scoring a try in three starts. Some decent line breaks and a good passer of the ball, could be one to watch.
Morgan Sieniawski – Onto the new boys and starting with the only Cardiff contracted player. A XVs flanker by trade who has senior rugby experience with Pontypridd. The 19 year-old spent the summer with the Wales U20s at the Junior World Championship.
Ceri Young – The versatile back has been at Cardiff RFC for two years now, making 39 appearances and scoring seven tries. A Newport academy graduate he has played for a few teams including rugby league stints before settling in blue and black. Won player of the tournament and last week’s Cardiff and District rugby 7s competition.
Ethan Davies – The Cross Keys fly-half/full-back is mainly associated with Newport. He has played for Newport A in the British and Irish Cup and even played for them in the group stages two weeks ago, getting yellow carded against Cardiff to help us qualify for the final! At 22 years old he has spent most of his career travelling with Wales 7s to date.
Jonny Lewis – The Llanelli academy graduate played for Llanelli RFC and Llanelli 7s before moving to Cross Keys and also representing Newport two weeks ago. Like Davies he was yellow carded in the Cardiff for a nasty swinging forearm on Jenkins and was just generally a bit of a doughnut throughout the game. Let’s hope he isn’t for us!
Aron Wyn Evans – I couldn’t find a huge amount on the 22 year old XVs winger, other than I believe he has recently played for Llandovery in the Welsh Premiership, and played for the hapless Llanelli side in the group stages. Fingers crossed he is part of a better team on Sunday.
So once again the newly named by myself Cardiff Blues Barbarians Select Sevens squad will take to the field and look to add some more silverware into the cabinet, mainly just to rub it in to Newport that we are now the holders. Come on (sort of) Cardiff!!
Singha Premiership 7s Final Fixtures
Sunday 7th August
Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Live on BT Sport
Quarter Final 1 – Cardiff Blues v Sale Sharks – 14:00
Quarter Final 2 – Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints – 14:25
Quarter Final 3 – Harlequins v Wasps – 14:50
Quarter Final 4 – Newcastle Falcons v Ospreys – 15:15
Plate Semi-Final 1 – 15:40 Cup Semi-Final 1 – 16:05 Plate Semi-Final 2 – 16:30 Cup Semi-Final 2 – 16:55 Women’s Premiership Sevens Final – 17:20 Plate Final – 17:45 Cup Final – 18:10
Tickets on sale here
Cardiff Blues Supporter’s Club trip details here