Analysis: The new boys – Jason Harries

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After yesterday’s look at Dmitri Arhip, it’s time to move onto the second signing of the summer, which was the somewhat surprise move for Welsh winger Jason Harries.

The 29-year-old may not be a name that is too familiar to supporters at the Arms Park, or in Welsh rugby generally, despite having been involved in senior rugby after graduating the Wales U20 setup in 2009.

Perhaps one reason why Harries isn’t necessarily a household name is the long way round he’s taken in getting to the professional 15s game. After leaving the Scarlets academy he never quite made the step up down West, instead playing for Carmarthen Quins in the Principality Premiership.

From there he made the move into the Wales 7s squad, touring the globe on the HSBC World Sevens Series for three seasons, before in 2012 he left for London after 10 sevens tournaments and 98 appearances for Carmarthen, scoring 40 tries.

Jason Harries Wales 7s
Jason Harries was a key member of the Wales 7s setup for three years

London Scottish was the rugby destination where Harries proved a hit in his two years, scoring 21 tries in 46 games. Courtesy of the Championship side’s links with the Scottish Rugby Union, the Welshman caught the eye of the Scottish Rugby Union and soon was winging his way to another capital, Edinburgh.

Now after a season in the Guinness Pro14 the winger has signed with Cardiff Blues, but what sort of player are we getting?

John Mulvihill was quick to talk about adding some size to our backline when he was appointed as head coach, and Jason Harries fits that bill at 6ft3, and 16.5st. In many ways he’s as close to a direct replacement for Arms Park favourite Alex Cuthbert as you can expect.

Harries kick chase 1Harries kick chase 4Harries kick chase 3

Harries has that workhorse mentality about him, chasing kicks hard, competing when necessary or wrapping up the opposition player, likely developed in the same sevens arena that Cuthbert came through where if you stand still you are out of the game.

As a key part of the game now, where kick returns can be such a weapon for a team with a high quality counter-attacker in the back three, Harries hard running will be critical when called upon, but more important will be his hard running with the ball.

Harries carry 2Harries carry 3Harries carry 5

You would expect a man with the size and power of Harries to be able to make yards when called upon to do so in contact, and the winger is no disappointment in this area.

With impressive acceleration from a standing start and upper body strength to match a strong leg drive, Harries has the ability to take on his opposite number one-on-one when the option to outrun him isn’t on, and get Cardiff Blues on the front foot in the wide channel.

I used to say of Cuthbert that give him a yard or two of space and he’ll at least get you going forward, and it seems Harries has the same uncanny ability. There is more than just a route one aspect to his game though.

Harries offload 1Harries offload 2

You don’t spend three years playing on a sevens contract without picking up some handling skills, and Harries has the ability to keep the ball alive, even if it doesn’t always work out for the best.

With John Muvihill keen to impress a high skill level on the Cardiff Blues squad he will no doubt have been impressed with Harries skillset on viewing tapes ahead of the winger’s signing.

He will also be pleased to see Harries winger instincts fitting nicely into the Cardiff Blues attacking systems.

Harries analysis 2Harries analysis 3Harries analysis 1

As a former sevens player, Harries has an appreciation of the width that needs to be offered from the winger, but sliding off his wing into the attacking line is where he finds himself getting into the most dangerous positions.

At Edinburgh, where fans of Warren Gatland’s Wales circa 2016 can go if they want to get their fix of centres running crash ball, he didn’t get put through gaps half as often as he should have, but when he did he made yards.

Harries carry 8Harries carry 4Harries carry 7

With Jarrod Evans and Gareth Anscombe pulling the strings from fly-half, the likes of Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo running lines in midfield and Nick Williams or Samu Manoa on the short ball, there should be gaps for Harries to make these runs into.

A naturally attack-minded player, who will be encouraged to run lines like this as often as possible either on the inside or outside shoulder, fingers crossed we should get him running into open field more because when all is said and done, Harries is a try scorer.

Harries try 1Harries try 2

There’s big competition for wing spaces at the Arms Park, with Blaine Scully, Tom James, Owen Lane, Aled Summerhill, Dan Fish and Harri Millard as well as a raft of youngsters all keen to get as many first team minutes as possible.

Harries arrives in the prime of his career though, with a taste of professional rugby in a team that didn’t suit his playing style and was transitioning under a vastly different head coach to one they have had before, as well as a point to prove in Welsh rugby.

If the Carmarthenshire man can put his best foot forward at the Arms Park then the signing of Jason Harries could be a very shrewd piece of Cardiff Blues manoeuvring.

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