The February/March international window is over for another year, and as the domestic season swings back into action for the run-in, it’s time to have a quick look back at how Cardiff’s players got on representing their countries around the World.
It’s fair to say that the Cardiff contingent in the Welsh Six Nations squad wasn’t particularly sizeable, with only Kris Dacey, Scott Andrews, Sam Warburton and Alex Cuthbert being called up the squad.
This wasn’t particularly surprising given the poor form suffered by Cardiff in the previous few weeks, and injuries suffered by the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Ellis Jenkins, Gareth Anscombe and Tom James. Perhaps the only surprise omission was Rhys Gill, who had been excellent in the absence of Gethin.
There wasn’t any further surprises in the fact that only Sam Warburton had any real exposure to match action throughout the course of the tournament, playing every minute of every match, with only Alex Cuthbert joining him for the 80 minutes against England.
Unfortunately Cuthbert was the victim of that week’s witch hunt from the Team Wales super fans, blamed for England’s match winning try despite being left stranded by a poor Jon Davies kick, and he was subsequently discarded for the rest of the tournament. That was good news for Cardiff though as we benefitted from two excellent performances against Treviso and Edinburgh.
Sam Warburton on the other hand had a superb tournament. Out of position at blindside flanker he still topped the turnover charts for Wales with seven, was top tackler in two games and came to be a reliable lineout jumper as he won universal plaudits for his revitalised captaincy free performances.
Add to this the fact that he returns to Cardiff injury free, and it’s good news all round!
There was excellent Cardiff Blues representation throughout this season’s U20 Six Nations, with twelve players named in the initial squad, as well as two further players who would link up once Wales 7s commitments were finished.
All fourteen players got game time throughout the five games, with Ben Jones and Rhys Carre starting every match, while Dane Blacker, Corrie Tarrant, Kieron Assiratti and Aled Ward all featured in each game.
Cameron Lewis and Rhun Williams missed just one game, Jim Botham and Owen Lane were restricted by Wales 7s while Shane Lewis-Hughes, Callum Bradbury and Morgan Sieniawski were hindered by injuries, while Tom Mably made a solitary appearance off the bench but did feature for Cardiff A in the meantime.
Accumulatively there was 109 points scored by Cardiff players for the U20s through the tournament, a fantastic amount as Jason Strange’s side, also coached by Richard Hodges, fought to a third placed finish. With at least eight of the fourteen players in their first year at this level the future really is bright.
Picking out a few players for a moment, the two props, Rhys Carre and Kieron Assiratti, were rock solid throughout the tournament and seem real prospects, while the half-back partnership of Dane Blacker and Ben Jones look incredibly exciting with ball in hand and seem to have a very good understanding between them.
The task now for Danny Wilson and his coaching staff is to ensure that these players continue on the right track with their development and are able to receive and make the most of first team opportunities. We won’t ever have the most money, but if we can produce stars then we can go some way to levelling the playing field.
The Americas Rugby Championship returned for another year while the Six Nations was on, and Cardiff’s American contingent were out representing the stars and stripes as the USA Eagles romped to victory.
Blaine Scully was released to play in the opening week where he captained America to a win against Uruguay in San Antonio before returning to Pro12 action.
With Scully returning, Cameron Dolan went the other way, scoring off the bench in a hammering of Brazil before starting in the big game against Canada. He went on to start and score in the final two games, a win over Chile and a draw against Argentina, which secured the trophy.
Overall an impressive month for Cardiff’s international representatives, and with an encouraging bill of health for the returning players, hopefully they can all bring something to our push towards the end of the season, whether that be in a match environment or on the training field.