Cardiff Blues have made a new hooker a priority for next season, as John Mulvihill looks to beef up his front row options during his first proper transfer period in charge.
Matthew Rees is widely expected to retire from playing at the end of the season as the 38-year-old nears the end of his 20th campaign of senior rugby, leaving a gap for a strong scrummaging hooker within the squad.
Kristian Dacey is currently holding down the starting hooker spot, and acting as interim captain while Ellis Jenkins is out for the season with a knee injury, but the man they call the Try Machine is much more of a mobile number two, praised for his work in the loose rather than at the set piece.
Behind him there has been a battle for the backup hooker spot, with Kirby Myhill and Ethan Lewis struggling to maintain a consistent spot in the matchday squad, while Liam Belcher is coming through the ranks more in the mould of a Dacey playing style, and Iestyn Harris is still a few years off regular senior rugby.
As a result Mulvihill has looked to West Wales to add to the ranks, with Ospreys’ Scott Baldwin and Ryan Elias of the Scarlets both linked with a move to the Arms Park for next season.
Baldwin seems the most likely candidate, with the rumour coming out a few weeks ago via Steffan Thomas in The Rugby Paper, as Scott Otten and Sam Parry emerge at the Liberty Stadium and the Wales international searches regular rugby and a fresh start.
With 154 Ospreys appearances and 34 Wales caps under his belt, the Bridgend product certainly has plenty of experience to add to the Cardiff Blues squad, and at 6ft3 and 18 stone possesses the size that Mulvihill is looking for.
However, this week a rumour has surfaced that Ryan Elias is exploring avenues away from Parc y Scarlets after growing unhappy about a lack of playing time behind the man occupying the Wales number two jersey, Ken Owens.
Still only 22, Elias is already approaching 100 Scarlets appearances and has six Wales caps having made his debut in the summer of 2017 and been involved in the most recent Autumn Internationals squad.
At 6ft2 and close to 17 stone he is not quite the size of Baldwin, but with time in his career to bulk up he will offer the physical aspect Mulvihill requires. Having said that, the likelihood of Scarlets allowing Elias to leave without a fight is minimal.
On the whole it’s good to see Cardiff Blues targeting positions that need quality adding if we are to compete in the Pro14 regularly, and start to make in-roads at European level. If funding from the Welsh Rugby Union can be organised quickly and we ensure we come out well, then there is a great chance to put together an impressive squad next season.