Cardiff Blues have confirmed the re-signing of six players on new contracts as head coach Danny Wilson finalises his 2017/18 squad.
Brad Thyer, Fa’ao Filise, Scott Andrews, Anton Peikrishvili, Matthew Rees and Lewis Jones will all play at the Arms Park next season, with front row options looking a lot healthier for Wilson on the back of the announcement.
It takes the Cardiff Blues squad to 50 for the new campaign, including the senior academy squad, as the playing depth actually increases for the Welsh side despite a summer of financial woes.
Loosehead Thyer is one of a talented bunch of youngsters looking to break into the first team next season, alongside the likes of Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Jarrod Evans and Rhun Williams. The Pontypridd-born prop is back in training after a season disrupted by a heavy concussion that has ruled him out since January.
On the flip side, Filise and Rees are very much approaching the end of their playing time, but have extended their careers for a further season as Wilson looks to balance youth and experience in his squad.
Under normal circumstances the re-signing of Matthew Rees, who turns 37 in December, would be the major story, as a professional player entering his 15th season of top level rugby. After leaving the Celtic Warriors for the Scarlets, the former Wales captain has now committed to another year after making 24 appearances in all competitions during 2016/17.
However, Fa’ao Filise steals the headlines by becoming the first player in any of the World’s four major domestic leagues to win a new contract at 40.
Cardiff Blues’ record appearance holder, affectionately known as the King of Tonga, has 241 games in a blue jersey to his name and is set to begin his 12th season at the Arms Park, having played for Bath, Bay of Plenty and the Auckland Blues before arriving in Wales.
Georgian international Peikrishvili will spend a full-season in Wales having joined up from Ulster in the November of last season, struggling to make an impact after a red card for biting an Ospreys player in the Anglo-Welsh Cups and a back injury, but he is now back in training after a summer with the Lelos.
Meanwhile Andrews is now set to stay on for his 10th season at the Arms Park, and will chanllenge both Filise and Peikrishvili for the tighthead berth. Looking to add to his 141 appearances, Andrews will continue to play alongside coaching within the Cardiff Blues academy.
The only back in the list of new contracts, scrum-half Lewis Jones, also continues a lengthy association with the club as he begins his eighth season as a Cardiff Blues player.
A serious knee injury meant Jones was restricted to just one appearance last season, but returning to pre-season training fit again sees him able to challenge Wales internationals Lloyd and Tomos Williams for the number nine jersey.