November is here meaning one thing, the start of transfer silly season around club rugby. With rumours swirling of big money moves for many top Wales players, as well as star players and coaches from around the World mainly being linked to Toulon and Bristol, Cardiff Blues have conducted their business in a rather more understated manner thus far.
There’s been just the one new arrival announced so far with Anton Peikrishvili coming in from Ulster until the end of the season. The tighthead prop will provide front row cover and competition on both sides of the scrum as he is equally capable at loosehead.
He leaves Ulster having made no appearances for the Irish side since signing in August on a short-term contract. This is due to picking up an injury, despite being signed himself to cover injury. Little to no appearances have been a feature of his career as he hasn’t made more than 10 starts in a season since 2009/10 in travels that have taken him to Brive, Castres and Bayonne, as well as winning 23 international caps.
In terms of future signings there is little to go on at the moment. Leigh Halfpenny will be mentioned until a definitive answer is given on his future at Toulon, as Cardiff should have first dibs on him should he return to Wales on an NDC.
What we really need is a lock, someone who is about 8 feet tall, 18st, loves carrying and can make 10 tackles a game. I’m not asking for much! Maybe after the Autumn Internationals there might be some players available on short-term contracts from Romania or Tonga. Eben Etzebeth might be tempted for £400,000 a game…? I can only dream.
The last month has also been one for the first two leavers of 2015/16 with Salesi Ma’afu and Tavis Knoyle both moving on to pastures new at Gloucester and Cardiff Old Boys, sorry Newport, respectively.
Tighthead Ma’afu heads out the door having played just 284 minutes of rugby in a Cardiff jersey in around 11 months. Living off the title ‘Australian international’ he never once looked fit and even ended up turning out for Cardiff RFC back in September. Definitely up there with Sam Norton-Knight and his brother Campese for worst recent foreign signing.
Knoyle meanwhile made a better fist of his time at the Arms Park, making 32 appearances, with 18 starts, over two seasons at the club. Unfortunately he never particularly set the place alight and seemed a shadow of the player with so much potential we saw at Llanelli. He slipped back to fourth choice fly-half behind Lloyd Williams, Lewis Jones and Tomos Williams, began answering back to fans on Twitter and then headed for the Newport conveyor belt of former Cardiff talent.
There’s also a decent number of ‘stayings’ in this first update as Billy Millard has been a busy boy in his General Manager office. Top try scorer Tom James has committed himself to the club for the next few years, Gethin Jenkins adds another year onto his never-ending career, Kris Dacey has committed long-term after making his 100th appearance a few weeks ago. Tomos Williams has been retained after an impressive start to the season and finally Sam Warburton has signed a new three-year National Dual Contract.
Good news and business all round as the management have moved to tie down some key players to the club for the next few years and got all the in-house business in order before the job of recruitment can start. A chance for Peikrishvili to prove himself as well and still space for one more signing in the short term, very encouraging indeed.