June has come and gone, at last, as the rugby off-season seems to drag on forever, but the start of July signals the official start of 2019/20 and here on the Cardiff Rugby Life, I’m about to raise the positivity for absolutely no reason.
It has been quite a tough two months since the 2018/19 campaign came to a close, with concerns over the financial state at the Cardiff Blues, a lack of player signings and news from the club, and a sour taste left in the mouth from three losses sending us out of Guinness Pro14 play-off contention and Heineken Cup qualification.
However, green shoots are appearing, and that excitement for the new season to begin is growing, that belief that anything is possible and that maybe this year is our year.
We’ve already had the Challenge Cup pool stage draw and Indigo Group Premiership fixtures, while over the next few weeks we can expect announcements regarding pre-season friendlies, Pro14 fixtures (earlier than ever apparently), European fixtures and confirmation regarding the Celtic Cup.
Then we can start turning attention to on-field action, with that Celtic Cup campaign first-up and a chance for our future stars to show off their potential, with youngsters like Iestyn Harris, James Botham, Jamie Hill, Ben Thomas and Ioan Davies on show. The future is looking bright indeed.
Onto the Pro14 and Challenge Cup then where, admittedly the squad is short in a number of places, but cast your mind back to the summer of 2017 and the mood was similarly low after France van der Merwe was moved on before even arriving at the Arms Park due to another financial problem.
With Danny Wilson announcing his departure and a poor start to the season, nobody was expecting Cardiff Blues to achieve anything, as we had similar gaps in our squad to those we’re currently seeing, but we still finished the season lifting a trophy in Bilbao.
Add into the equation that it is Rugby World Cup year, with a number of the stronger teams likely to be heavily impacted by international call-ups, and if the fixtures fall particularly kindly for us, there is no reason we can’t get off to a good start.
We have a very talented squad and, if we play to our undoubted strengths, then we can be a match for any side, particularly at the fortress that is the Cardiff Arms Park.
So as we officially bid farewell to 18/19, and say hello to 19/20, remember one thing…
It’s the hope that kills you. Come on Cardiff!