As the June Internationals come to an end, Cardiff Blues players have once again been representing their national teams in locations all around the globe.
Altogether there were 15 Cardiff Blues in action over the last few weeks, playing for four different teams against 11 opponents across five countries, stretching from the Americas, to Europe and on to the Pacific Islands.
Starting with the home country, it was a very successful summer for Warren Gatland’s men who, after three wins on this summer’s tour, are now on a five-game test match winning streak including victories over Italy and France in the last two weeks of the Six Nations.
Before the tour it was announced that Ellis Jenkins would have the honour of being tour co-captain along with another Cardiff Blues academy graduate in Cory Hill, and it would be the flanker who led Wales out in the first game of the summer against South Africa in Washington DC.
He was joined in the starting line-up by Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies out of position at blindside flanker, and Gareth Anscombe, but it was the debutant scrum-half Tomos Williams who stole the show with a try and then two crucial chargedowns that allowed Ryan Elias to grab the winning score as Wales won out 20-22.
With Gatland stating pre-tour that there would be plenty of squad rotation whatever the results, it was not a surprise to see just Lewis and Davies, again out of position, retained in the starting XV as Wales headed down to Argentina for the first test against Los Pumas.
A comfortable 10-23 win for the visitors followed with Anscombe coming off the bench along with Josh Turnbull, a late addition to the travelling squad after Aaron Shingler picked up a knee injury in the Guinness Pro14 Final.
The series was secured the next week with an even more comfortable 12-30 scoreline, with Jenkins restored to the starting XV and Lewis, Turnbull, Williams and Anscombe joining him from the bench.
None of those five did themselves any harm at all in terms of selection for Wales’ World Cup squad with Japan 2019 just over a year away, with young players Dillon Lewis and Tomos Williams particularly putting their names forward for spots in the regular matchday 23.
Seb Davies will be disappointed not to have been given game time in his preferred second row position, but if he continues to wear the number four shirt for Cardiff Blues and play as well as h did last season it will soon be difficult for Gatland to ignore him.
The young Welsh side had a slightly more disappointing summer than their senior counterparts, but managed to salvage it from what could have been a disaster, as the Cardiff Blues academy members showed up well in France.
It all started very promisingly for Geraint Lewis’ men, with a 21-26 win over Australia marking the first ever win for Wales U20 against the Young Wallabies, but we came unstuck against a strong New Zealand U20 side as the Baby Blacks romped home to a 42-10 victory.
A big win was needed against Japan in the final group game to stand a chance of getting into the semi-finals, but unfortunately Wales could only muster a 17-16 win to limp into the 5th-8th place play-off, and lose their first game of the second stage to Argentina thanks to a disappointing 39-15 scoreline.
Fortunately the young Welsh players picked themselves up to beat Italy in the final game to secure another seventh place finish at the Junior World Championship, with late squad call-up Max Llewellyn scoring a try.
Throughout the tournament Rhys Carre and Iestyn Harris were regulars in the front row, while Dane Blacker was generally opted for in the nine jersey.
Newly signed prop Will Davies-King featured off the bench on three occasions, where Ben Thomas was also a regular, but there was disappointment for Ben Jones who picked up an injury in the second game against NZ and was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.
Individually though, the future is looking bright for Cardiff Blues, and with most of our boys in he squad just in their first year of U20 action, there is plenty of time for them to develop further yet.
Our very own Captain America, Blaine Scully, was in fine form this summer as he guided his USA Eagles side to some historic results over the course of three games.
The US started with a game against Russia, where Scully, as well as former Cardiff Blues number eight Cameron Dolan, now at the San Diego Legion in Major League Rugby, each got on the scoresheet with one try apiece as the Eagles won 62-13.
Then Scotland came to visit, with America securing a thrilling 30-29 win over the tier one nation courtesy of the Scots missing a conversion with the last kick of the game, sparking wild celebrations in Houston.
On the back of that superb win, USA Eagles were in no mood to mess around when making the trip North to Canada for their final game of the summer, securing a huge 17-42 win over their next door neighbours, a record in this fixture, and lifting the CanAm Trophy in the process.
Scully was again on the scoresheet, while Dolan grabbed himself a hat-trick, as the USA begin their journey towards Japan, where they will face England, France, Argentina and Tonga in the pool stage.
Unfortunately it wasn’t such a successful summer so far for Rey Lee-Lo, as his Samoan side came bottom of the 2018 Pacific Nations Cup table.
Despite a brave comeback in the first game, where Samoa found themselves 17-0 down to Fiji in the first half, the Fijians won out 24-22 winners in the end, with Lee-Lo seemingly suffering a head injury and being forced to sit out the second and final game.
In that game they fell to Tonga, 28-18, with the Samoan Prime Minister, who also runs the Samoan Rugby Union, not mincing his words in the aftermath, stating that they have ‘no guts’.
Samoa now switch their focus to the Rugby World Cup qualifying play-off against Germany, with the first leg happening in Apia this Saturday (30th), before the return game takes place in Europe on the 14th July.
Overall it’s been a solid few weeks for Cardiff Blues players playing across the world for their respective national teams, and they now have a well deserved rest before linking up a bit later with the squad at The Vale.
These players will then be expected to return after about round three of the 2018/19 Guinness Pro14, but first I wish Rey Lee-Lo the best of luck in Samoa’s World Cup qualifiers against Germany. LEEEEEE-LOOOOOOOO!