There’s been good news and bad news for the experienced members within the Cardiff Blues front row over the last week, as John Mulvihill begins to make moves towards organising his backroom and playing staff for next season.
Contract talks have opened up with club captain Gethin Jenkins over extending his career by another year, and the loosehead prop is expected to sign that imminently as he looks to join the 200 appearance club.
After missing the first three months of the season, the 37-year-old has returned to stamp his claim on the number one jersey, with his ‘additional back row’ playing style being used to great effect as Cardiff Blues dominated the breakdown against Edinburgh, Ulster and Munster.
Mulvihill is also keen to keep his experience in and around the team, knowing Jenkins will be of great use in assisting a promising crop of young props, including Corey Domachowski, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis and Kieron Assiratti.
The new head coach is also keen to keep hold of Matthew Rees, however at this stage has only offered the hooker a coaching role, despite the player also wanting to extend his on-field career by another season.
Despite Kristian Dacey acting as second choice hooker for Wales during the Autumn Internationals, Rees has dominated the starting position for Cardiff Blues this season. His 16 starts are the most he’s made since the 2014/15 season and the performances have earned him solid reviews.
However, after going off injured against Ulster last week, Rees has now undergone knee surgery which is likely to threaten his involvement in the early part of next season, let alone any of the remaining games of this campaign.
This may put a playing contract in doubt, as offering a 37-year-old who has just come back from knee surgery a playing contract could be seen as a risk. Especially in these times of budget restrictions.
What will work in his favour is the production line of Welsh hookers currently following Matthew Rees. As mentioned, Kris Dacey has been involved in the Team Wales setup for a few years, while Kirby Myhill has been reliable when called upon to play this season.
Ethan Lewis is still only 24, while Iestyn Harris appeared in all five U20 Six Nations games this season, despite it being only his first year at that level. If Rees can get himself back fit, he can provide an ideal segway between himself and these young hookers coming of age to compete in the first team, as well as passing on his experience to them.
Meanwhile, Fa’ao Filise is approaching his 41st birthday with no confirmed news yet on whether the Cardiff Blues record appearance holder will be extending his career by yet another season.
One thing is for certain, the send-off the King of Tonga will receive at CAP when the time comes will be on occasion not to be missed!