Time to think outside the box?

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So with recruitment and retention seemingly done and dusted at the Arms Park for this summer attention now turns to the new season.

The gaps in the squad were there for all to see; loosehead, second row, number eight and fly-half, with hooker also a position of concern as there was plenty of bodies to fill the number two jersey, but perhaps not the quality required to push for the Guinness Pro14 play-offs.

Hopes were raised that the squad actually wasn’t too far away from being seriously competitive, with some weight being added in those tight five areas going a long way to helping us compete with the Irish sides, while a bit of depth elsewhere would help throughout a long season.

However, in the end that physicality was not forthcoming, and what we now have is a squad of good, young Welsh talent with a sprinkling of experience and overseas quality, but without that grunt which was noticeably lacking in key games against Munster and Connacht.

There has been plenty of negativity about this, and while I do have concerns particularly over the lack of quality depth at fly-half, and there are questions to be asked about the overall recruitment/retention policy, there is a chance for Cardiff Blues to make a big change off the back of this summer that could revolutionise the way we play.

A lot of talk has been about the likes of Josh Turnbull or Macauley Cook bulking up to try and fit the bill of engine room powerhouse, but what if they should actually slim down? What if we became the most mobile team in the Pro14?

It’s an idea that I wonder if John Mulvihill is considering, especially now we’ve had a change of backs/attack coach and Richie Rees comes in with a fresh slate to work from.

We have plenty of the pre-requisites that an un-structured attacking side should have; exciting backs that can score from anywhere, a strong counter-attack, the ability to turn the ball over regularly, and a fly-half comfortable with ball-in-hand.

To add to that I think we need to introduce two aspects to our game. The first is along the lines of what is mentioned above in terms of big forwards slimming down, we need to up our base level of fitness. That’s not to say we’re an unfit team, far from it, but to be successful with a looser style of play we need to be unrelenting in how we move quickly around the field.

Quickly taken lineouts, tap penalties, keeping kicks in-field, anything that results in ball-in-play time being as high as possible and the pace of the game being as fast as possible so that it opens up and tires out the opposition, as well as puts them under pressure through a high line speed.

The second is something we’ve actually been crying out for over the last two seasons at least, and that is a decent offloading game.

It seems bizarre given that we have players like Kris Dacey, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins and Nick Williams in our pack, and Jarrod Evans, Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo in our backline that we are not regularly offloading the ball, but it’s something we lack in our attack.

An offloading game would allow us to keep the ball out of contact, change the point of attack quickly, and further tire out the opposition defence as we attack at a pace as high as we defend.

Upskilling the rest of the players, particularly the forwards, would play a huge role in a fast-paced attacking game, and should be something, along with the fitness training, that is particularly targeted by Mulvihill and his coaching staff.

It would be somewhat audacious to make this switch of tactics, and playing in a high risk, high reward fashion will not always pay off, but in World Cup year when dealing with budget restrictions, thinking outside of the box will be key.

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