Class of 2016: Where are they now?

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Last summer saw an incredible 21 players head out of the Arms Park for pastures new as Danny Wilson marked his first summer in the job by having a big clear out of some dead wood at the club, as well as aiming to dramatically cut the size of his playing squad.

With destinations as diverse as Merthyr and Hong Kong, let’s find out how the 2016 leavers have got on in the last 12 months.

Rhys Patchell

Starting with the biggest news to come from last summer, the departure of the local boy down west to join the Scarlets. It was a move that divided the fan base, with some still critical of Cardiff for allowing Patch to move on, while others rating Gareth Anscombe as a better 10 and respecting the former Glantaf’s wish to further his career at fly-half rather than full-back.

Patchell has had a moderately successful season on a personal level at Parc y Scarlets, making 21 appearances and scoring 201 points, but missing out on the middle of the year thanks to injury. He did however receive a Pro12 Final winner’s medal in May as the Scarlets defeated Munster in Dublin to lift the trophy, and will stay next season in the hope of winning more silverware.

Rhys Patchell.jpg
Rhys Patchell is a Pro12 winner

Richard Smith and Tom Williams

Also receiving Pro12 winner’s medals were wing duo Smith and Williams who travelled with Patchell down to Scarlets last summer.

They’ve had slightly less individual success than the fly-half though, with Williams making just five Pro12 and European appearances, and three in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, scoring four tries along the way, while Smith was solely restricted to Anglo-Welsh games, spending most of the season with Llandovery in the Premiership.

The departures of DTH van der Merwe and Liam Williams might offer up more opportunities for the former Cardiff duo, but if not, Richard Smith is definitely welcome back to the Arms Park any time!

Richard Smith.jpg
The legendary Richard Smith has featured much in scarlet

Sam Hobbs and Tom Davies

Cardiff Blues produced loosehead duo Hobbs and Davies were released to join Newport Gwent Dragons at the end of last season, and have formed an important part of our neighbours scrum this year, battling away to a combined 45 appearances.

Hobbs has made the majority of the starts, with Davies acting as the backup mostly, and both have been retained by the Dragons as they move into Welsh Rugby Union ownership.

Craig Mitchell

Welsh international prop Mitchell also headed across to Rodney Parade last summer after two seasons in Cardiff, but was blighted by the same fitness problems that stunted his Arms Park career. He made just two starts, one each in the Pro12 and the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and has now been released with the Welsh Premiership a likely destination.

Craig Mitchell
Craig Mitchell has been released by NGD

Gavin Evans

Staying in Wales, but out of the professional game, Gavin Evans was released after seven seasons with the Blues last summer, heading to Welsh Premiership side Neath where he will likely finish his career.

Playing mainly at inside centre, but also covering fly-half towards the end of the season, Evans led the Welsh All Blacks to the lower tier Premiership final, eventually losing out to Newport.

Chris Dicomidis and Geraint Walsh

The two Pontypridd players both moved back to their Premiership club, having been picked up during the semi-pro recruitment drive that Cardiff Blues carried out, after things not working out at the professional level.

Unfortunately Walsh suffered a serious leg break and ankle ligament damage in pre-season, ruling him out for the season, but Dicomidis was able to feature more as Pontypridd made it to the National Cup final and Premiership semi-final, losing out in both.

Both players will stay to form the experienced backbone of the Sardis Road side next season in the face of financial problems.

Chris Dicomidis
Chris Dicomidis is back at Sardis Road

Rhys Williams and Gareth Davies

Sir Stan Thomas flexed his spending muscles last summer, picking up both Williams and Davies from the Blues, with both players helping the Ironmen to winning the Premiership final at the first time of asking after being promoted to the top division last summer, and both will stay next season at The Wern.

Elis Wyn Benham

Perhaps the second most surprising departure, after Rhys Patchell, was the Wales U20 wing Benham who had only featured in the U20 Six Nations some three months prior to being released, and had starred for the Cardiff Blues Premiership Select side in the British and Irish Cup.

Sir Stan splashed out for the highly rated youngster, but unfortunately ongoing injury problems have seriously restricted his playing time this season, and there are suggestions he has signed for Ebbw Vale ahead of next year.

Lou Reed

The big second row initially left Wales last summer, signing a two-year deal with Sale Sharks. However, after just two Anglo-Welsh Cup appearances he was released at the beginning of February, subsequently signing for Merthyr and winning the Premiership with the Ironmen.

There is a suggestion he may now have departed The Wern, but no confirmation on what the former Scarlet’s plans are next.

Lou Reed
Lou Reed was released from his Sale contract

Owen Jenkins, Ben Roach and Adam Thomas

Also staying in Wales was this trio who signed up with the WRU on full-time 7s contracts. All featured heavily in the World Sevens Series this season as Wales won the Trophy in Vancouver and Singapore, but may well be concerned over plans to create a Great Britain 7s team to replace separate England, Scotland and Wales sides from the season after next.

Owen Jenkins
Owen Jenkins has had a full season with Wales 7s

Harry Davies

Young winger Davies was a somewhat surprise departure last summer, given his size and speed drawing comparisons to a young Alex Cuthbert, but he packed off over the Severn to join Bath’s academy.

Illness impeded his progress throughout the first half of the season, before he made his Bath debut in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in January and an Aviva Premiership bow against Harlequins in February, going on to make a handful of appearances. He will stay with Bath next season and hopefully stay fit for the whole season.

Harry Davies
Harry Davies recovered from illness to feature for Bath

Miles Normandale

Another younger player heading to England was the former UWIC student who never really made an impact at Cardiff after joining full-time after graduating.

He headed to Rotherham in the Championship where he was part of the Titans side that finished bottom of English rugby’s second tier. With no sign of Normandale on their website it appears he may have been released from the Yorkshire side, possibly following Justin Burnell back to Wales.

Jevon Groves and Tommy Isaacs

Onto the players heading further afield after their release last summer, and the former 7s players Groves and Isaacs both made the move to Hong Kong for this season, initially to different locations.

Isaacs made the move to Hong Kong FC’s rugby section after two tries in 20 Cardiff appearances, combining playing with starting a career that utilised his engineering degree from Cardiff University.

Groves, who only made one substitute appearance during his time at the Arms Park, made the move East to become Hong Kong 7s assistant coach, however signed with Hong Kong FC as well just before the domestic season started, and joined Isaacs in helping the side to a fourth placed finish. Both players are likely to stay in HK for the foreseeable future.

Tommy Isaacs
Tommy Isaacs is juggling rugby with work in Hong Kong

Manoa Vosawai

The final player to move abroad last summer was Italian international Vosawai, who made the move to ProD2 side Vannes as Nick Williams joined Cardiff Blues. The number eight has featured heavily in Northern France, even making Midi’s ProD2 team of the week on a few occasions.

Vosawai was posting highlights clips on YouTube just a few months ago though, consistent with a player on the look out for a new club ahead of next season.

Manoa Vosawai
Manoa Vosawai may be on the move this summer

The Cardiff Blues squad is close to being confirmed for 2017/18, with just five senior departures expected, as well as around eight academy players moving. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks on the site for a full squad list and the team report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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