100 Club: Mr Reliable

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Throughout the long history of Cardiff Rugby there has been a special connection between the club and the county of Carmarthenshire, stretching as far back as the great Rhys Gabe and incorporating Barry John, W. Gareth Davies, and Gerald Davies, amongst others.

To the West of there, however, Pembrokeshire has not been represented at the Arms Park to quite the extent of their neighbours. That is until a man by the name of Josh Turnbull walked through the Gwyn Nicholls gates and took the place by storm.

When he arrived in the summer of 2014 I think it was well agreed that the back-rower was a good signing for Cardiff Blues.

26-years-old at the time, Turnbull was coming off a summer where he had made his sixth and seventh Wales appearances in tests against South Africa and was widely regarded as a more than solid player. One who would compliment a crop of young flankers well.

What couldn’t have been foreseen is that over the subsequent four and a bit years, the Haverfordwest-born man would become an almost permanent fixture in the Cardiff Blues team, overcome a potentially career-ending injury and still be involved with a highly competitive Wales forward pack at the age of 30.

Munster 18 Josh Turnbull tackle

In his time at the Arms Park Josh Turnbull has filled every position across the back row and in the second row, slotting in as and when required. A nod to his versatility that stems from a high skill level as well as a mix of physicality and mobility.

One thing that remains a constant though is his tackling. The numbers he produces on a regular basis are incredible, and are even more remarkable considering that in the second half of the 2016/17 season he sustained a back injury that he thought he might not recover from.

A disc bulge in his lower back left Turnbull unable to sit down for any length of time, properly spend time with his family and definitely not able to train or play.

It ruled him out for around seven months, but when he came back into the team last season he made 30 appearances in all competitions and finished fifth in the Pro14 for tackles with 206. A season’s best of 30 tackles in a single game away at Zebre was a real highlight.

Turnbull was a key squad member as we stormed to the Challenge Cup Final and returned to the Heineken Cup for more than just his tackling though.

Gloucester Final Turnbull lineout 3Pau QF Josh Turnbull lineout steal 1

When the team selection came out ahead of the Challenge Cup quarter-final away at Edinburgh, it was a surprise to many that Josh Turnbull and George Earle would pack down in the second row, with breakout star of the season Seb Davies only amongst the replacements.

The reason for that decision was that Turnbull would be the main man at the lineouts as the premier jumper and caller, and it was certainly a justified decision as he played a massive part in taking away the advantage that Edinburgh, Pau and Gloucester had over us up front with some crucial steals and disruptions.

As an experienced member of the squad amongst some inexperience in the Cardiff Blues pack, he was a key cog in the wheel and by slotting in at lock he offered a balance to the forwards that allowed the pincer opensides of Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi to work so well.

Zebre A Josh Turnbull carryKings Josh Turnbull turnover

Although Nick Williams is a very effective primary ball carrier, Turnbull also works to balance the back row by providing additional ball carrying, taking the strain away from opensides Jenkins and Navidi.

Especially with defenders pre-occupied by Big Nick at number eight, it allows a slightly more mobile but still physical ball carrier like Josh to take advantage of the space offered by defenders focusing on Nick, which Turnbull did to great effect.

He can also assist the sevens as a more than capable jackal.

Although not a natural openside himself, the back row looks rather lopsided when we are forced to play him there, Turnbull is adept over the ball and actually secured the joint-seventh most turnovers in the Pro14 last season.

Essentially, as Josh Turnbull reaches 100 appearances for Cardiff Blues, what I am trying to paint a picture of is a man who is the rock of the squad. Someone who has been a permanent fixture in the squad for just over four seasons, and shows no signs of going anywhere yet.

You can be the X Factor player, score the most tries or become the highest points scorer ever. You can be the hometown hero and come through the academy to play for the team you watched as a kid. You can even be the joker and win over supporters that way.

Or, you can become an Arms Park favourite simply by being the most consistent player on the pitch. Putting your body on the line week-in, week-out, even when the performance levels of others around you are not up to scratch.

That is Josh Turnbull, Mr. Reliable.

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