Summer 2016 was always going to be a busy transfer period as Danny Wilson looked to take full advantage of the transfer period to begin the process of building a team that he wants and suits his style of play, all part of the three year plan.
As such he spent much of the first half of 2015/16 experimenting with the squad players to ascertain the level of the quality. It’s fair to say he wasn’t impressed as come May there were no fewer than nineteen players leaving the Arms Park for pastures new.
Not entirely surprising after the last few years of recruitment mainly coming from the scraps of other professional clubs and the Welsh Premiership, the quality of the coaching staff employed since David Young not helping in that department.
Following that there was a need to get players in to fill the gaps left by the many departures, but Danny Wilson was not after nineteen new players, instead looking to recruit a fewer number of higher quality players to operate with a smaller squad that allows for a higher standard of training and playing as a whole.
With that in mind the summer of 2016 saw the arrival of Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, George Earle, Nick Williams, Steve Shingler and Matthew Morgan, while Willis Halaholo was also announced as a signing but did not join up officially until late October due to being contracted in the New Zealand provincial cup.
Early November brought about another signing as Anton Peikrishvili joined the club to plug the sizeable gap left by Salesi Ma’afu, before Pele Cowley and Nicky Robinson were brought in at the start of December to cover the half-backs shortage created by the departure of Tavis Knoyle and injuries to Lewis Jones, Jarrod Evans and Gareth Anscombe.
Ten new players to look at, so let’s see how they’ve got on;
Rhys Gill – The loosehead returned to Cardiff having come through the development pathway around 2005, before leaving in 2008 for seven years at Saracens. Started the season as backup to Gethin Jenkins but has stepped up well to cover Melon’s injury in recent weeks.
Kirby Myhill – Suffered an unfortunate injury early on his debut during the season opener and has struggled to nail down a regular place in the matchday squad since returning to fitness, mainly due to Kris Dacey’s form. Shown flashes of potential though.
Anton Peikrishvili – Had no chance to make any impact on debut, however in his second appearance against Ospreys in the Anglo-Welsh Cup the Georgian international was having a very solid game until receiving a red card for biting Rob McCusker. Whether he was provoked to that extent or not, still doesn’t reflect well on him.
George Earle – Been one half of the lock partnership we’ve seriously lacked over recent years. A hardened South African not afraid to put his head in where it hurts and provide a bit of grunt at scrum time. Has struggled with a persistent ankle injury though, while was unfortunate to get sent-off away at Bath for making contact with the eye area of an opponent.
Nick Williams – Another presence we have lacked, a massive ball-carrying number eight. A more or less direct replacement for Manoa Vosawai he has taken our metres gained stats to another level while providing plenty of front foot ball. However being made of glass he has to have managed game minutes and has already suffered a few weeks off with injury.
Pele Cowley – Still to make his first team debut, the Samoan international has only featured for the A side so far, where he has received a red card as a result of two yellows away in Ulster.
Nicky Robinson – The King has returned! Called out of retirement due to the injury crisis, the fly-half has been restricted to substitute appearances where the sublime of creating Alex Cuthbert’s try against Ulster have been matched by the ridiculously slow charged down kick to concede in the same game.
Steve Shingler – The former Llanelli man has been a mixed bag since arriving at CAP. Man-of-the-match performances against Edinburgh and Newport have been contradicted by struggles in Treviso and against his former employer. Solid from the tee and still to settle at Cardiff he has shown signs of improvement though.
Willis Halaholo – There was much excitement around the potential partnership between the Tongan Under-20 international and Rey Lee-Lo when Willis arrived in October. There have been flashes of brilliance from the former Hurricane, scoring tries against Treviso and Ulster, but he is still to settle fully yet and has played a hell of a lot of rugby in 2016.
Matthew Morgan – The former Bristol man is the most exciting counter attacker I’ve ever seen at Arms Park where the plastic surface suits him down to the ground, however he has been let down by frailties under the high ball and in defence. A man of small stature yes, but both can be fixed with a confidence and good technique.
With another summer of transfer activity to come in 2017 as Danny Wilson puts the finishing touches on his Cardiff Blues squad there is sure to be some big news coming out of the club in the next few weeks. Let’s hope it’s all good!
On the tenth day of Christmas, Danny Wilson gave to me, ten new signings, nine Under 20s, eight tries v Treviso, seven missing Welshmen, six Pro12 debuts, five away league wiiins, four derby wins, three derby losses, two Royal Kings and a flying Blaine Scullyyy…