That time of year has come back around again, as February and March prepare for the disruption that is the international window to rear it’s head.
It’s always a tricky time for fans of professional club rugby in Wales, where selfish hopes of clinging on to first team players for crucial Pro14 matches have to be tempered by well-wishes for those selected by national teams, as well as being pleased by the financial rewards that come with that.
Overall there will be 17 Cardiff Blues players missing across five national team squads during the next two months, but with injuries decreasing towards the end of the recent fixture block, there is a hope we will be able to weather the storm somewhat.
Starting with good old Team Wales, and Cardiff Blues will have seven representatives in Warren Gatland’s squad in this week’s build up to the opening game of the Championships on Saturday, better than last year’s four.
Up front, tighthead prop Dillon Lewis is named in his second Welsh squad after making his debut during last year’s tour of the Pacific Islands, but there is no room for Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Gill or Kris Dacey.
Seb Davies is again named amongst the second row options, although it remains to be seen whether Gatland will persevere with the bizarre idea that he is an eight, while Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins are included in the back row stocks.
Sam Warburton is ruled out through injury, while Josh Turnbull is overlooked, although competition for places at flanker is extremely competitive in the Welsh squad currently.
In the backs Tomos Williams has been called-up, despite not being included in the initial squad, due to Rhys Webb’s injury. He will be hopeful of winning his first cap after not making an appearance during last summer’s tour.
Gareth Anscombe returns to the squad after missing the Autumn Internationals through injury, and may be in with a shout of a starting berth after Dan Biggar’s injury ruled him out of the first few weeks of the Championships.
There is also a call-up for Alex Cuthbert after some impressive performances over the festive period, although the predictable abuse followed from online ‘fans’ who don’t watch him play week-in, week-out.
It must also be noted that Bradley Davies, Cory Hill, Rhys Patchell and Leigh Halfpenny are all included in the squad having come through all or part of the Cardiff Blues development pathway.
Wales Six Nations fixtures;
3rd February – Wales v Scotland – 14:15
10th February – England v Wales – 16:45
24th February – Ireland v Wales – 14:15
11th March – Wales v Italy – 15:00
17th March – Wales v France – 17:00
Also involved in international action over the coming weeks will be Blaine Scully who has been named captain of the USA Eagles for their upcoming Americas Rugby Championship tournament.
He is joined by former Cardiff Blues number eight Cam Dolan, now playing for Old Blue RFC in New York, as the Eagles look to retain the trophy they won last year.
USA Eagles Americas Rugby Championship fixtures;
3rd February – USA v Argentina XV
9th February – USA v Canada
17th February – USA v Chile
24th February – Brazil v USA
3rd March – Uruguay v USA
The final senior international to be named in their national setup for the next few weeks is Anton Peikrishvili, who has been selected by Milton Haig in the Georgia second for the upcoming Rugby Europe Championship.
After being pipped to the post by Romania last year, The Lelos will be hoping to get revenge by winning Europe’s second tier international rugby competition and push their case for Six Nations improvement, while tighthead prop Peikrishvili will be looking to add to his 24 caps.
Georgia Rugby Europe Championship fixtures;
10th February – Georgia v Belgium
17th February – Germany v Georgia
3rd March – Georgia v Spain
10th March – Russia v Georgia
18th March – Georgia v Romania
Once again there is good representation of the Cardiff Blues in the Wales Under-20 squad for the upcoming U20 Six Nations, as the development pathway produces six players named by head coach Jason Strange.
Loosehead Rhys Carre and fly-half Ben Jones are both included in their second U20 Six Nations squad, having also played in the Junior World Championships last summer.
Elsewhere there are call-ups for hooker Iestyn Harris, back-rowers Jim Botham and Alun Lawrence, and fly-half/centre Ben Thomas, all of whom appeared for Wales U18 last season, and have featured in the Welsh Premiership and British and Irish Cup this campaign.
Wales U20 Six Nations fixtures;
2nd February – Wales U20 v Scotland U20
9th February – England U20 v Wales U20
23rd February – Ireland U20 v Wales U20
9th March – Wales U20 v Italy U20
16th March – Wales U20 v France U20
Finally, there have been Wales 7s call-ups for two talented young Cardiff Blues centres, as Harri Millard and Cameron Lewis have headed down under for the latest legs of the HSBC World Sevens Series.
The first of those legs took place in Sydney last weekend, with an inexperienced Wales side falling to defeats in all of their pool games, against Kenya, Argentina and France, before qualifying for the Trophy Final only to lose to France again.
They will now head to Hamilton for the New Zealand leg of the series this coming weekend.