Cardiff Blues summer international review

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It was a busy summer for Cardiff Blues players out on tour this year, with no less than 24 representatives playing for six teams covering all corners of the globe, from North America to the Pacific Islands.

On a fitness level it was a successful few weeks, with no serious injuries picked up, but more importantly for the players there were a lot of impressive performances, pushing many into contention for further international honours and even higher into legend of the game status.

B&I Lions

The Lions tour to New Zealand was the main event of the summer, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of rugby quality, entertainment and drama.

Some terrifically competitive warm up matches were followed by a compelling test series, culminating in a drawn third test and a tied series for only the second time in Lions history.

At the centre of it all was tour captain Sam Warburton, becoming only the second man to lead the Lions on two tours. He did so admirably, doing himself, Cardiff and Wales proud in his conduct on each stop of the tour and in his handling of the media.

It was a frustrating tour to start with for the flanker, coming into it with an injury picked up against Ulster and then spraining an ankle in the first warm-up game, all of which meant he was not deemed fit enough to start the first test.

However, he returned to the XV for the second test and put in a performance more than worthy of the historic Lions jersey. Wearing number 6 he was a colossus at the breakdown, leading by example in a way that only Sam can do.

That continued into the third test where another huge performance was registered, although this game will be long remembered for his diplomacy skills as Warburton talked referee Roman Poite out of awarding a late penalty to New Zealand that would have lead to a chance to make the winning kick.

If it wasn’t already known, Sam Warburton is a real legend of the game, and more importantly, he’s a legend of Cardiff Rugby.

Sam Warburton Lions Try
Sam Warburton was the ultimate Cardiff ambassador this summer

Wales

After the disappointment of a relatively low Cardiff Blues contingent in the Wales squad for the Six Nations, it was encouraging to see nine players selected by stand-in Head Coach Robin McBryde to go on the summer tour of the Southern Hemisphere, as well as Matt Sherratt going as backs coach.

Gareth Anscombe, Alex Cuthbert, Josh Navidi, Seb Davies and Kris Dacey all started the first test of the tour against Tonga in Auckland, with Cuthbert scoring on the way to a 6-24 victory, although the winger picked up a leg injury that forced him off at half-time and home after the game.

Cory Allen, Ellis Jenkins and Dillon Lewis all got their chances to start in the second test, as Wales won 17-19 in a game of attrition.

None of the Blues contingent did themselves any harm at all over the summer, with particularly youngsters Davies and Lewis impressing as they proved their credentials as two of the hottest properties in Welsh rugby right now.

Alex Cuthbert Tonga
Alex Cuthbert gets a comeback try against Tonga

Samoa

A big summer of rugby for Manu Samoa saw them begin with a big fixture against New Zealand. Unfortunately Rey Lee-Lo would miss that game due to injury, but would go on to play 80 minutes against Wales, Fiji and Tonga over the next three weeks.

A 30-26 defeat to Tonga and 16-38 loss to Fiji saw Samoa finish bottom of the 2017 Pacific Nations Cup, meaning they missed out on automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and now face a European side for a chance to play in the main tournament.

Rey Lee-Lo Wales
It was a tough summer for Rey Lee-Lo’s Samoa

Georgia

For tighthead prop Anton Peikrishvili it was a big summer as he was recalled to the Georgian setup for the first time in a year by Head Coach Milton Haig.

It was straight into the starting XV for the Lelos opening match of the summer against Canada, winning his 24th international cap in a 0-13 win over Canada in Calgary.

However, it would be his only appearance of the tour, as what appeared to be an ankle injury forced him off and he failed a fitness test to return to action in Georgia’s final match against Argentina.

Anton Peikrishvili Georgia
Anton Peikrishvili’s return to Georgia action was cut short by injury

USA

The departing Cam Dolan played a major part as the United States qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a play-off win over Canada.

Missing the first of two warm-up matches, he played 53 minutes in the second against Georgia in readiness for a starring role from number 8 against the Eagles neighbours, with two 80 minute performances seeing him lead from the front as a senior US international.

Backed by support from some Cardiff Blues colleagues in the home tie, the country usually captained by the injured Blaine Scully won 52-16 in the home leg after a draw in Canada, securing the United States a spot in Pool C at the RWC alongside England, France, Argentina and Scotland.

Cam Dolan USA
Cardiff Blues players past and present support Cam Dolan in the US

Wales U20

Another strong summer of Cardiff Blues representation in the Junior World Championship saw 11 players from the Arms Park involved in Wales U20’s campaign.

10 of those started in the pool stage, with Rhys Carre, Kieron Assiratti, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Owen Lane starting all three while Callum Bradbury, Jim Botham, Aled Ward, Dane Blacker, Cameron Lewis and Ben Jones featured either from the start or off the bench during defeats to Australia and England, and victory over Samoa.

The prominence of Carre in the loosehead spot restricted Tom Mably to bench appearances only, but it further reinforced the strength in Cardiff’s front row options right through the squad.

Tries from Assiratti, Bradbury, Lewis-Hughes, Blacker, Lewis and Ward all helped towards the team effort, as did 10 points off the boot of Jones, with Wales’ youngsters eventually losing to Scotland in their first knockout game before beating Italy for a 7th place finish.

Shane Lewis Hughes U20.jpg
Shane Lewis-Hughes was the top tackler in the Junior World Championship

 

 

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