The Principality Premiership’s 2018/19 campaign gets underway this weekend, in what could be the most interesting season of Premiership rugby yet.
With the changes introduced to the player development pathway over the summer, the Premiership has been given the opportunity to forge a new path as the pinnacle of club rugby in Wales, with increased television coverage from BBC Wales giving the league a greater public profile as a competition in it’s own right.
Unfortunately there are some within the league who want to hold on to their pathway responsibilities, and more specifically the funding that comes with it, rather than focus on making the league the best it can be.
What likely adds to that is the very real possibility of relegation this season, as four Premiership teams will definitely lose their status and funding, while a fifth could face a play-off against the best Championship team, as relegation makes a return following three years of ring fencing.
Not wanting to drop down into the second tier and face an uncertain future, Cardiff RFC have strengthened well this summer, bringing in at least 13 new faces to bolster the squad. With Cardiff Blues players not likely to spend so much time playing semi-professional rugby, this is greatly needed.
After a successful pre-season, in which Old Albanian and Tata Steel were dispatched with an aggregate 101 points scored, the Blue and Blacks should enter the new season with an air of confidence about them.
A winning start won’t be easy to come by though, as Cardiff welcome reigning Premiership champions Merthyr to the Arms Park on Saturday, with the Ironmen looking to make it three league trophy wins in a row.
They have bolstered their squad this summer with the likes of former Cardiff Blues centre Adam Thomas and former Ospreys winger Jay baker, adding to the quality they already possess, as they too want to ensure they hold on to their Premiership status first and foremost.
In response to this, Cardiff RFC head coach Steve Law has named a strong matchday 23 as his Blue and Blacks side aim to get the season underway with a win.
Debuts are handed to Thomas Davies, Kieran Martin, Zach O’Driscoll, Morgan Allen, Martin Roberts, Steffan Jones, Joe Gatt, Morgan Griffiths and Matthew Powell in the starting XV.
With stalwarts Joey Tomlinson, James Murphy, Will Rees-Hole and Gareth Thompson down the spine of the team there is a nice balance to the first match day squad of the season.
Cardiff RFC: Gareth Thompson, Morgan Griffiths, Joe Gatt, Will Rees-Hole, Matthew Powell, Steffan Jones, Martin Roberts; Thomas Davies, Joey Tomlinson (c), Peter Lloyd, Kieran Martin, James Murphy, Rory Pitman, Zach O’Driscoll, Morgan Allen
Replacements: Ramaz Rukhadze, Ian Jenkins, Ross Davies, Nathan Smith, Tom Daley, Luke Crocker, Nicky Griffiths, Adam Jones
It will take a huge effort from the Blue and Blacks to repeat last season’s 24-17 win over Merthyr at the Arms Park, but a positive performance will set the tone for the campaign ahead.
Kick-off is at 14:30, so get down to CAP for some Saturday afternoon rugby. Come on Cardiff!