Team Report: Tighthead

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We bring the front row section of the Team Report to a close with tighthead prop, having already gone in-depth on loosehead and hooker over the last two days.

It’s a story of little change when it comes to the number three jersey, with no new faces or departures, but there is a good battle heating up for the starting job, especially as young prospects begin to develop into first team players.

As things stand it will more than likely be Dmitri Arhip packing down for the opening Guinness Pro14 game of the season, as he looks to build on a first year at the Arms Park which was solid, without being eye-catchingly impressive.

The scrum had a certain solidity to it when the Moldovan was involved, especially as he had to contend with some lightweight colleagues next to him and behind him, but perhaps I was expecting some more explosive power.

Admittedly injuries didn’t help, as he missed around two months of action across the crucial November-January period, but judging by some videos on social media he has kept in good shape this off-season. A fit and firing Arhip could well be key for Cardiff Blues in the early part of the campaign.

That is due to the Rugby World Cup, which will take plenty of internationals from other teams, but will likely see Dillon Lewis unavailable for Cardiff Blues as he heads off to Japan. However, upon his return it will be an excellent battle between both players as they vie for the number three jersey.

Dillon Lewis Wales
Dillon Lewis has become an important player in the Wales squad

The 23-year-old had an excellent season in both blue and red jerseys last season, adding an ever-improving scrummaging technique to his undoubted abilities around the field.

If he continues on that upward curve in regards to his set piece abilities, as well as always retaining the kick-step that is now one of my favourite pieces of carrying of all time, then his future looks very bright indeed.

While Dillon is away though, John Mulvihill has an interesting choice when it comes to who provides bench cover for Arhip. Does he go with youth or experience?

He is a clearly a fan of Keiron Assiratti, having awarded him a first senior contract towards the end of last season, two years after he made his Cardiff Blues debut.

Many will remember that baptism of fire he had coming off the bench away at Gloucester in the Challenge Cup quarter-final, however he has improved dramatically since then, and now needs exposure at first team level having recently turned 22.

He spent most of last season playing Premiership rugby, therefore it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him feature in the Celtic Cup as a step-up, but hopefully he can make his mark on the Pro14 in 2019/20.

If that doesn’t work out, or Mulvihill opts for the experienced head, then Scott Andrews is always on hand, who is about to begin his 13th season involved with the Cardiff Blues first team.

Somehow he has only just turned 30, but he has 167 appearances to his name and his involvement with the Cardiff Blues age grade sides is an indicator of someone with a good rugby brain.

Scott Andrews Cardiff Blues U16
Scott Andrews coached Cardiff Blues U16 Development last season

Admittedly not the strongest of scrummagers, Andrews makes up for that with his work around the field, and regularly contributes well to the tackle stats despite making the majority of his appearances of the bench these days.

It’s a solid set of tighthead props all-in-all, with a good mix of experience and a variation of attributes that give Mulvihill the ability to pick the right player depending on the opposition or the game plan.

Behind them I would expect to see Will Davies-King involved with Cardiff Blues A during the Celtic Cup after some encouraging showings for Cardiff RFC last season, while Ben Warren showed up well for Wales U20, although is still a year or two away from making an impact on the first team.

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