Cardiff RFC today announced a raft of new signings ahead of the 2018/19 season as they combine with Cardiff Blues U23 to put together an exciting squad for Steve Law’s second campaign in charge.
It was a disappointing 2017/18 for the Blue and Blacks in the end after four straight wins to kick off the year promised much. However, an appalling injury list that robbed the squad of captain Joey Tomlinson, as well as key forwards Miles Normandale, Dan Crimmins and Reuben Tucker, stunted progress.
Five wins in 16 matches through the heart of the season left Cardiff out of contention as the Premiership combined from it’s east/west split start, but five wins through February and March was enough to lift the side back up to an eventual eight placed finish.
Overall head coach Law is upbeat though, telling the Cardiff RFC official website that he was happy with the “players we managed to find who worked extremely hard to get us going again” and that ” as a coaching group we were also finding our feet in our first season together and I think we worked well as a group and learned from each other.”
This season will present a different challenge for the Blue and Blacks, with the Premiership bringing back the jeopardy of relegation as the bottom four clubs come next May will find themselves in the Championship for 2019/20 as the Welsh Rugby Union cuts the number of teams in it’s top domestic league to 12.
The fifth from bottom side will also be in danger, as they face a play-off against the Championship winners at the end of next season, with the reforms coming as part of the WRU’s shake up of the development pathway.
Those reforms have also seen the creation of under-23 teams run by the four Welsh professional clubs in South Wales, and Cardiff Blues bosses have seen the opportunity to benefit their U23 and Cardiff RFC teams with some new faces for next season.
Altogether nine new players have been announced as joining the Blue and Blacks ranks next season, with the star name being that of former Wales international scrum-half Martin Roberts who returns to the country.
The 32-year-old, who started with out with the Ospreys before switching to the Scarlets, whilst being farmed out to Premiership clubs along the way, has spent the last few years with Northampton, Bath, Bristol and Exeter either side of a second stint with Ospreys.
Roberts, who has three Welsh caps won in November 2008 and 2009, most recently played for Rouen in the French third tier and will add an experienced head in the back line with Rhodri Cole returning to Llanelli.
He could potentially be joined at half-back by former Dragons fly-half Steffan Jones, who joins Cardiff for a second spell after making two appearances back in 2009/10.
The 27-year-old moved to the Dragons on a dual contract with Cross Keys at the end of that season, going on to play 45 times in four seasons at Rodney Parade, before heading on to Bedford and Ampthill over the bridge.
After returning to Wales last season he scored 253 points in 31 games for Bedwas last season, and will now challenge Gareth Thompson for the number ten jersey at the Arms Park.
Adding to the backline outside them are Matthew Powell, a 23-year-old winger who has scored 28 tries in 68 games for Cross Keys and previously featured for the Dragons Premiership Select, and Morgan Griffiths, another 23 year-old winger who has scored 28 tries in 81 games for Carmarthen after coming through the Scarlets academy.
Jack Evans, a full-back who has spent time in the academies of Scarlets and Gloucester, joins to further boost the back three ranks, while Joe Gatt links up from Bridgend to bolster Steve Law’s centre options.
Up front there are three additions to the back row, with the big name being former Wales U20 cap Morgan Allen, who arrives after playing for Ealing Trailfinders in the English Championship last season.
Now 28 years old, the number eight spent the first five years of his professional career at Ospreys, where he made 53 appearances, before moving across the Loughor Bridge to the Scarlets, running out 26 times in two season.
Leaving Parc y Scarlets last season, he spent two months at Bedwas where he scored two tries in four games, before moving across to Ealing. Allen will be joined at Cardiff by flanker Zach O’Driscoll, who joins from Bridgend.
After 86 appearances in four seasons at the Brewery Field, O’Driscoll, who has captained the Ravens and played for Ospreys Premiership Select, joins Cardiff RFC after making a pre-season appearance for the Blue and Blacks way back in 2011.
The 27-year-old links up with another ex-Bridgend man in Kieran Martin, with the back rower who can also play at lock joining up with the Arms Park side after a successful 2017/18 that saw him make 23 Ravens appearances and be called up to the Ospreys Anglo-Welsh Cup side.
All in all it’s a very encouraging start to the summer for Steve Law, Cardiff RFC and Cardiff Blues U23, with a very important season coming up as we bid to avoid relegation from the Premiership and make a success of the new development side.
How all three teams that the club puts out work together will be key to the success, more on that next week.
Cardiff RFC signings
Kieran Martin (lock/flanker), Zach O’Driscoll (flanker), Morgan Allen (number eight), Martin Roberts (scrum-half), Steffan Jones (fly-half), Joe Gatt (centre), Morgan Griffiths (wing), Richard Powell (wing), Jack Evans (full-back)