We’ve had a look at what transfer market work is required to get the backs into shape for next season, now it’s time to focus on the backs, and where Billy Millard, Danny Wilson and co may be looking to recruit going into the 2017/18 season.
Transfer Shopping List: Forwards – https://cardiffbluesblog.com/2016/12/20/transfer-shopping-list-forwards/
Starting with a position with a few decisions to be made. Lloyd and Tomos Williams are pretty solid as the top two battling for the nine shirt, and seeing them go head-to-head will be an interesting watch over the next few years, especially with Tomos seemingly getting better each time he plays. Meanwhile, Lewis Jones is a handy squad player who can step up for injury cover or during international periods, despite suffering a nasty knee injury this season.
It gets tricky when it comes to depth at 9, with Tavis Knoyle having left for Newport. Samoan Pele Cowley has been signed but may find first team chances limited so will have to impress in A team fixtures and during training to be kept on.
If he is released then it’s a choice between whether to sign someone, or whether Dane Blacker is ready to step up. The 18-year-old has impressed in Premiership 7s and in the A team, as well as playing regularly for Pontypridd, but if Wilson believes him ready to possibly step up to regular Pro12 action in the event of injuries is another question.
Verdict: Pele Cowley has six months left to prove his worth, and that is what scrum-half recruitment hinges on. If he stays, then we have three senior 9s and a youth player. If he goes, then we’ll need to add someone to the ranks.
Here’s the position that could see the biggest changes over the summer, or the least! It pretty much revolves around the future of Gareth Anscombe. The Wales international is currently on a National Dual Contract which runs out come the end of the season, and there’s no sign of a renewal yet.
There’s rumours that he’s fallen out with Danny Wilson, he’s talking to clubs in England and obviously he’s not exactly made a place in the Wales setup his own as neither Welsh fans, nor a large section of Cardiff fans, have particularly warmed to the player that Wales Online loves to remind us is born in New Zealand.
On a personal level I’m a big fan of Anscombe at 10, and think he is a quality player, but at this point it’s looking less likely by the day he’ll be around next season.
If Cardiff are to look for a Welsh replacement then options are somewhat limited. Sam Davies and Dan Biggar have both committed to Ospreys, Rhys Patchell has settled at Scarlets while James Hook is on the way back to the Liberty Stadium. Owen Williams from Leicester and Rhys Priestland from Bath may be available, while Dan Jones has been mentioned coming from Scarlets but he would not be the first choice we require.
Of course we could go further afield, splash some cash and use a non-Welsh qualified space. However, with money always limited in Wales and good quality stand-offs hard to come by generally, it would be a risky option. Anyway, I’m still scarred for Sam Norton-Knight!
Of the fly-halfs we already have, Steven Shingler has blown pretty hot and cold, since arriving from Llanelli in the summer, not really putting himself forward as a candidate for first choice, while Jarrod Evans is still only 20 and a few seasons off regular Pro12 starts yet. Lack of game time and injuries certainly aren’t helping the player, but he’s a definite prospect.
Further down the line Ben Jones has appeared in the BIC and AW Cup this season but, like Ben Thomas, is still only 18 and not even playing Premiership rugby yet.
Verdict: The squad players and youngsters are all in place and contracted, but the first choice selection revolves around Gareth Anscombe. I’m a strong advocate of re-signing him even if he doesn’t get a new NDC, that might even be better, but if he does head out the door a new fly-half will be the most important transfer decision we make this summer.
From the fairly up-in-the-air nature of half-backs to a relatively serene picture in the midfield. Our Pacific Island duo of Rey Lee-Lo alongside the recently signed Willis Halaholo are both signed up for next season, and their partnership is flourishing game-by-game.
Behind them the next most senior player is Cory Allen who, despite a dodgy start to the season, seems likely to be around next season as he grows in confidence. With his current deal expiring at the end of the season there was a school of thought that Llanelli’s Hadleigh Parkes was close to signing. However it seems he was just using Cardiff to get a better deal down West and Allen is now likely to stay.
Behind them there is a younger partnership trying to be formed of former Wales U20 players Harri Millard and Garyn Smith, with both continuing their development in Premiership and A team fixtures. The only issue is that both appear to be 13s rather than comfortable at 12, but we shall see.
Further behind them again, and in their first full seasons of senior Premiership rugby, we find Cameron Lewis, Declan Williams, and Owen Lane gaining decent reviews for teenagers. However they are all a few years off first team action yet.
Verdict: Could we do with one more senior centre? Probably yes, but money doesn’t go on trees. With three decent first team centres, a good few promising youngsters, as well as the likes of Steve Shingler and Aled Summerhill able to cover if necessary, we’re unlikely to add anyone here unless a player was to become available that was difficult to turn down.
Plenty of options going forward here, some may say it’s our strongest department outside of back row. Alex Cuthbert and Tom James are both top class wingers and have excellent try scoring records, while Blaine Scully has really stepped up this season and is fast becoming a cult figure at the Arms Park.
At full-back, Dan Fish is the ultimate cult hero already, a living Cardiff legend, while Matthew Morgan is probably the most exciting counter-attacker ever to grace the plastic pitch, but still has a little way to go until he totally wins over the fickle faithful.
Aled Summerhill always seems to know where the try line when he gets an opportunity, although persistent head injuries seem to be stunting him. Amongst the emerging players, Rhun Williams is a real prospect and has already trained with the Wales senior team, while Terri Gee has had some decent minutes for Merthyr and the A team.
Verdict: Similar to the centres really, with the players we have being more than good enough alongside some exciting youngsters, and the likes of Cory Allen and Garyn Smith able to cover if necessary, while Gareth Anscombe and Steve Shingler can drop to full-back if required. However, if a player became available who was too good to ignore, then we should go for it.
So as far as I can see it’s pretty open and shut where our problem areas are across the pitch. Tighthead and second row immediately spring to mind. Fly-half could well be the big story of the summer though and it will be interesting to see how it plays out, I just hope Cardiff don’t end up with any of the short straws that are on offer.
As always feel free to comment or reply on Twitter, some excellent debate after the forwards shopping list.