The Cardiff Blues age grade sides return to competitive action this week as Regional Age Grade Championships get underway for a new season.
It comes after a summer of minor upheaval within the Cardiff Blues development pathway, after former Cardiff RFC player and most recently Ospreys back coach Gruff Rees took over as Academy Manager, indirectly replacing Clive Jones who takes up a role with Coleg y Cymoedd.
His first move was to end the splitting of the Cardiff Blues U18 side, bringing it back to just one team in line with the other regions, while the Cardiff Blues U16 side stay split in the main part of the season before joining forces to form a combined side, as is also the norm across the RAG Championship.
Cardiff Blues U16
We start with the younger of the age grade sides, and the level at which last year Cardiff Blues were so incredibly dominant.
Between the North and South sides there were 16 games played cumulatively with 15 wins, the only loss being the North beating the South, as they finished first and second in the league table before winning three from three in the combined stage at the end of the season.
A quite unbelievable season, but as those players move up into the U18 squads, it’s now time to move on to this year’s squad.
The new U16s have plenty of promise in their ranks already, with the South side drawn largely from the Cardiff Schools side of last season who reached the Dewar Shield semi-finals, while the North squad has plenty of Rhondda Schools boys who also made the semi-finals, and Pontypridd Schools players that were victorious in the premier schools competition.
Try scorers Iwan Jenkins, Ben Burnell, Sam Davies and captain Ryan Wilkins are all included after helping Ponty to their first Dewar title in 22 years.
Cardiff Blues U16 South
Cai Killen, Jake Frost, Jamie Savory, Ioan McDougall, Alfie Johnson, Harry Williams, Owen Hatherill, Kieran Garland, Jacob Rudall, Finley Giosanu, Charlie John Downs, Lloyd Clarke, Harri Griffiths, Tirion Sebastian Bowen, Mefin Hopkins, Gwilym Evans, Elliot Fowler, Morgan Jones, Charlie Jowett, Tom Bridge, Gruff Tough, Zak Fifield, Joshua Atkinson, Cian Anderson, Iwan Pyrs Jones, David Nzamba, Iwan Johnes, Evan Morgan, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Jack Beynon, Charlie Edwards, Joshua Nott, Dan Carey, Ewan Lloyd Skuse, Steffan Crimp
Cardiff Blues U16 North
Amir Saleh, Ben Burnell, Cameron Mcintyre, Cameron Winnett, Cole Morgan, Dafydd Davies, Dale Lloyd, Danny Perry, Efan Daniel, Ellis Fackrell, Evan Griffiths, Harvey Nash, Harvey Williams, Iwan Jenkins, Jack Dauncey, Jack Williams, Josh Williams, Kian Carter, Kian Evans, Leo Warden, Lewis Lloyd, Luke Bradwell, Morgan Jones, Owen Radcliffe, Rhys Barrett, Rhys Dauncey, Ryan Davies, Ryan Wilkins, Sam Davies, Sam Evans, Ty Lewis, Will Edwards, Will Huggins
Both sides get their RAG campaigns up and running this Wednesday evening, with the South visiting Dragons Red at Ystrad Mynach, while North welcome Ospreys West to Sardis Road, with both games kicking off at 19:15.
From there, South have three home games in the remainder of the first half of the season, as Scarlets West, RGC and Ospreys East visit the Arms Park, while North spend their time on the road against Dragons Red and Scarlets West.
Fixtures then get up and running again at the end of January.
Cardiff Blues U18
For the older of the age grade sides there is an interesting season coming up as they try to bounce back from the disaster that was splitting the U18 sides between North and South last season.
After finishing second and third from bottom, respectively, with only RGC having a worse record than the Cardiff Blues teams, the 18s are reunited as one and boosted by the arrival of the majorly successful U16 players from last season into their ranks.
Despite struggling in the Regional Age Grade Championship, there was plenty of success for the college sides in the region last season, with Cardiff and Vale/Cowbridge, Whitchurch and Glantaf having good seasons, while Coleg y Cymoedd lifted the WRU College League trophy once again.
The players in those sides going into their second year of college will be available to the U18s this season, so the hope is that Cardiff Blues will be able to bounce back to competitiveness throughout the 2018/19 campaign.
That campaign kicks off at the Arms Park on Wednesday night against Dragons U18 with a 19:15 start. Tickets are £3 for adults and U16s go free. The team is as follows;
Cardiff Blues Under-18: Oliver James, Dafydd Thomas, Mason Grady, Iwan Sheppard, Theo Cabango, Josh Phillips, Keian Richards; Christian Brooks, Aneurin James, Iestyn Haskins, Mitch Barnard, Chris Tshiunza, Cai Davies, Ethan Fackrell, Ieuan Pring (c)
Replacements: Corben Evans, Travis Green, Nathan Evans, Craig Miller, Alex Mann, George Riley, Bailey Roberts, Will Clapham
After playing the Dragons the Cardiff Blues players then face Ospreys on the 5th September, before the majority of games are played between December and February.
You can follow weekly coverage of the age grade teams on @CardiffRugbyWeb, with a review of the first half of the season published at the end of next month.