I know it’s a weird thing to say, but the loss of the current starting Wales fly-half may not actually be such a bad thing for the Cardiff Blues.
In isolation it’s an obvious disappointment to lose a player of Gareth Anscombe’s quality, a match winner on his day who has become a favourite at the Arms Park and gone on to represent the club so well when stepping up to international level.
However, we have to be a bit realistic here, and while losing our best players is in no way ideal, we are operating on an extremely restrictive budget that means tough decisions have to be made when it comes to spending big on wages.
Yesterday we looked at how the saga around Anscombe’s contract played out, from information I’ve picked up over the last few weeks, and while we did put an offer on the table in the end, it would have severely stretched the playing budget for next season.
That is where the opinion that his loss isn’t necessarily a killer blow for the Cardiff Blues comes from, as although he alone would be an asset to the playing squad, if it comes at a price of strength in other key areas on the field, and the financial stability of the business, then it’s not worth it.
For example, what’s the point of having Gareth Anscombe in place behind a pack that cannot offer any good attacking ball, or signing him up to a big contract as the list of creditors seems to grow ever longer.
In fact, there is even a chance for the Cardiff Blues to turn the loss of the player into a success of sorts, depending on where they go from here. This is the intriguing aspect of the whole story.
It is likely that a few more faces will head out of the Arms Park door over the summer, with rumours that Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, George Earle, Sion Bennett, Dane Blacker, Tom Williams and Tom James could all be on their way, while Rory Thornton’s loan from the Ospreys is due to expire at the end of the season.
With Sam Warburton, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins and Samu Manoa either already having moved on or are set to retire, then there has been some budget space opened up.
Some of that has been spent on the retention done so far, with Kieron Assiratti, Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham all seeing a rise in their wage after signing professional contracts, while Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams and Jarrod Evans are now earning Welsh international level money.
Josh Adams and Hallam Amos are both being brought in to bolster the back three division as well, but there should still be some money left over to bring in some new faces, with back-rower Will Boyde already in advanced contract negotiations.
The difficulty will be deciding which area that money goes to, with a few positions in particular looking as if they will require fresh faces over this summer just to bolster the ranks, let alone improve the quality.
Starting with the number one jersey and with Rhys Carre on his way to Saracens there is already a gap to be filled, but if Rhys Gill is not offered, or does not sign, a contract before the start of next season then loosehead prop is a very pressing concern indeed.
It is believed that Kirby Myhill’s contract is up at hooker this summer and his lack of first team game time over the last few weeks suggests he may well head for pastures new this summer. There might be enough cover without him as Iestyn Harris steps up from Wales U20s, but a bit of extra grunt wouldn’t go amiss in the number two jersey.
Then there are a lot of question marks over who will make up the second row ranks next season, with Seb Davies the only regular starter definitely with a contract, while James Down and Macauley Cook are both set to stay on as squad members.
Even if George Earle signs a new contract, which is unclear at the moment, and Rory Thornton stays permanently, which seems likely, then we’d probably be wanting to add more physicality to the fold, but if one or both were to leave then lock would also become a very pressing concern.
Finally it is on to fly-half and a big decision to be made about whether we have the funds and the requirement to replace Gareth Anscombe immediately.
Obviously it is a big vote of confidence in Jarrod Evans, who is now trusted as the first choice fly-half in the squad, but as things stand he is also the only senior fly-half in the squad.
The choice is simple; bring in a new player to provide fly-half cover, or rely on the versatility of Dan Fish and Matthew Morgan, as well as put faith in the youth of Ben Jones and Ben Thomas.
In an ideal world we would look at someone like Sam Davies to come in and challenge Jarrod for the fly-half position, but with financial restrictions as they are and along with rumours coming out of the club, it appears we will take the risk of running without a recognised backup fly-half for next season.
We will have to wait to see what happens over the next few weeks as the squad for next season is finalised, but there’s still a chance to put together a half decent squad for next season, and crucially one which won’t be impacted too heavily by international call-ups as the World Cup cuts into the season.
Fingers crossed we can look back at Anscombe leaving in the long-run and pinpoint it as a time that worked out in our favour. That would be sort of typical Cardiff Blues in a way…