So long, farewell

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With the Cardiff Blues season now having officially come to an end, it is time to have a proper look at who will be leaving the club this summer for pastures new.

Altogether 13 players will leave as their contracts either come to an end or are mutually terminated, while three others departed or retired during the season, to bring the total number to 16.

All are thanked for their service to the club during their various amounts of time spent at the Arms Park, and wished the best in wherever the future takes them.

Gethin Jenkins

We start with the old stagers and the man they call Melon who retired from playing due to injury after featuring in one last game against Zebre back in November, bringing to an end a 17-year playing career.

He played for Pontypridd and Celtic Warriors before joining the Cardiff Blues in 2004, playing 195 times in all competitions in two spells either side of a season in Toulon. 129 Wales caps makes him the most capped loosehead prop in rugby history, and he also toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2005 and 2009.

Since retiring Jenkins has been coaching within the Cardiff Blues academy, as well as taking over as defence coach at Cardiff RFC.

Matthew Rees

The other old stager bringing an end to their playing career is Smiler, who has been playing for close to 20 years, similar to Gethin starting at Pontypridd before signing with the Celtic Warriors, but heading from there to Scarlets in 2004.

After 182 appearances in West Wales, he made the switch back East and arrived at the Arms Park in 2013, where he would go on to make 96 appearances after overcoming cancer during his first season.

What’s next for Rees is unknown, but after two years as Pontypridd scrum coach that avenue is open to him, or perhaps a switch to the murky world of agents awaits.

Matthew Rees Munster
Matthew Rees’ playing days have come to an end

Tom James

A familiar face not retiring but leaving the Arms Park this summer is Tom James, who departs for the second time after 11 seasons as a Cardiff Blues player.

He has made 163 appearances, scoring 60 tries during his time in the Welsh capital, and is quite comfortable at the top of the post-2003 top try scorer list. Perhaps his most memorable moment came when tearing down the left wing at the Principality Stadium to level the scores in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Leicester.

With the signings of Josh Adams and Hallam Amos, and the emergence of Owen Lane and Aled Summerhill, moving on is regrettably right for both parties. What lies next for TJ is yet to be decided.

Gareth Anscombe

Of course the big news story of the second half of the season was around the future of the current Wales fly-half, and whether he was going to head over the Severn Bridge, stay at the Arms Park or make the switch to the Ospreys.

In the end Anscombe opted for the latter, and will return from the World Cup to line up at the Liberty Stadium, after scoring 615 points in 77 games for the Cardiff Blues, leaving him tied third on the post-2003 points scored list alongside Rhys Patchell.

Having come in from New Zealand in the summer of 2014, the 28-year-old has helped the club to win the Challenge Cup and qualify for the Heineken Cup for the first time in five years, as well as established himself as Wales’ first choice fly-half.

Rhys Carre

While the saga around Anscombe’s future was drawn out thanks to Project Reset implemented wage bandings, it was the deliberations around Reset itself that saw Carre choose to depart for Saracens.

Unhappy at the lack of contract offer from Cardiff Blues due to ongoing off-field discussions, the loosehead prop signed up with the current Heineken Cup champions, despite a late offer of more money coming in from the Arms Park.

20-year-old Carre made 11 Guinness Pro14 appearances in all, as well as playing 26 times for Cardiff RFC, and has been named in the wider Wales training squad ahead of September’s World Cup.

George Earle

A player who in an ideal world we might have hung on to in a bid to strengthen our second row stocks for next season, Earle is departing the Arms Park this summer to join French ProD2 side Colomiers.

The 32-year-old made 59 appearances in all competitions since arriving at the Arms Park in 2016, including starting in Bilbao as Cardiff Blues won the Challenge Cup last May.

Before that Earle had spent five years at the Scarlets, meaning his move brings to an end almost a decade in Wales for the South African-born lock.

George Earle Newcastle
George Earle will ply his trade in France next season

Steven Shingler

One of the players who departed during the season, the fly-half terminated his contract a few months before the end of the campaign to joint French ProD2 side Mont-de-Marsan, having been told he would not be offered a new deal at the Arms Park.

Shingler played 60 games in all competitions for Cardiff Blues, scoring 301 points in the process, but found game time limited this season behind Gareth Anscombe and Jarrod Evans.

71 points in eight games have pushed Mont-de-Marsan into the ProD2 promotion play-offs, but he will depart for Ealing Trailfinders over the summer, having signed a two-year deal with the English Championship outfit.

Blaine Scully

Probably the signing that the Cardiff Blues supporters are most upset about, Captain America departs the Arms Park this summer after four seasons at the club, during which time he has gone from unknown quantity, to cult hero, to an actual legend.

After 51 appearances during his time in the Welsh capital, he will be best remembered for two tries; the flying effort against Scarlets that shot him into contention as a fan favourite, and the sliding effort in the corner during the Challenge Cup Final that inched us towards victory in Bilbao.

With Josh Adams and Hallam Amos coming in this summer, as well as the emergence of Owen Lane and Aled Summerhill as first team wingers, his departure is probably the right decision, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it!

Tom Williams

The back three player will depart the Arms Park for a second time this summer, after having only spent a year at the Cardiff Blues during his second spell at the club.

On this occasion he spent most of his time playing for Cardiff Blues A, impressing enough to start in the Pro14 against Zebre and Glasgow during November, but then picking up an injury and never winning his spot back.

He instead played for Cardiff RFC, scoring four tries in seven games, and will now move to the Channel Islands where he has signed for English Championship side Jersey RFC.

Tom Williams Dragons A
Tom Williams scored a lot of tries for Cardiff Blues A

Jack Roberts

Another player who will ply his trade in the English second tier next season, as Roberts goes back over the Severn Bridge after signing with Doncaster Knights.

Unfortunately the centre’s time at Cardiff Blues was plagued by injury and he was never able to come close to fulfilling the potential seen during his time with Leicester, with some tipping him to challenge for Wales honours.

He was restricted to just two Anglo-Welsh Cup games and a solitary Guinness Pro14 outing, picking up an injury in each of those games, as well as a pre-season friendly against London Scottish.

Samu Manoa

In a similar vein to Roberts, big American forward Samu Manoa was unable to live up to pre-signing expectations, but due to personal reasons rather than injuries.

Just as he was nearing his debut the death of a family member saw him return to the US, and when he returned to Cardiff he failed to settle, eventually terminating his contract by mutual agreement after just seven appearances.

A few months out of the game followed, but he is now back playing after signing with Major League Rugby side Seattle Seawolves.

Sion Bennett

After a successful loan period towards the end of the 2016/17 season, back-rower Bennett was signed to a two-year contract by Cardiff Blues from Northampton Saints, having initially come through the Scarlets academy.

However, just four first team appearances in four years, due to injury and the sheer competitiveness of the back row at the Arms Park, has resulted in no further contract forthcoming and the 25-year-old hunting for a new club.

sion-bennett-treviso
Sion Bennett has struggled for game time this last two years

Dane Blacker

Someone reportedly not hunting for a new club though is scrum-half Blacker, who is reported to have signed with the Scarlets for next season, although no announcement has been forthcoming thus far.

The 20-year-old was regarded as a hot prospect after helping Wales U20 win the Grand Slam and a try scoring loan spell at the Dragons, but has not kicked on under John Mulvihill, with the current coaches more excited about the prospect of Jamie Hill, the next academy scrum-half on his way through.

As a result Blacker will head West to compete with Kieran Hardy and Jon Evans while Gareth Davies is at the World Cup with Wales.

Ben Jones

Blacker’s Wales U20 half-back partner Jones is also on his way out the Arms Park door this summer, having also failed to kick on from promising youngster to first team player.

The 2016/17 academy player of the year has spent much of this season playing out of position at full-back for Pontypridd, and is yet to find a new club ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.

Cameron Lewis

Another member of that Wales U20 Grand Slam winning squad, Lewis has struggled to get a break in a midfield that is currently occupied by Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo, Garyn Smith and Harri Millard.

With Ben Thomas and Max Llewellyn coming through the system, game time has been restricted to just one Anglo-Welsh Cup appearance, and Lewis has spent most of this season with the Wales Sevens squad.

Cameron Lewis
Cameron Lewis is a Cardiff Blues academy graduate

Corey Howells

A young winger who was brought in from the Dragons academy, Howells played in both the Anglo-Welsh Cup and British and Irish Cup last season, but failed to make a Cardiff Blues appearance this year.

Has spent the majority of the season with Pontypridd in the Principality Premiership.

George Thomas

Another academy winger released, Thomas is let go at the end of his first year in the Cardiff Blues academy.

Made a handful of Pontypridd appearances alongside helping keep Cardiff University in the BUCS Super Rugby and winning the Welsh Varsity.

All departing players are thanked for their time at Cardiff Blues and wished the best on their future endeavours. Once a blue, always a blue!

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