Yesterday we looked at Cardiff RFC’s fixtures for the 2019/20 season, as Steve Law’s men prepare to have another attempt at toppling Merthyr, but will have to overcome tricky runs of games at key times to do so.
One of those tough stretches will be the first few weeks of the campaign, with the Blue and Blacks getting going in the Indigo Group Premiership away at Pontypridd, before games against other old rivals Llanelli, away, and Swansea, at home.
Just to add to that, the defence of our Specsavers Cup gets underway earlier this season, with a trip up to North Wales to face RGC coming in the second week.
And the cherry on top of the pie is that this will all be done during the Celtic Cup campaign, with Cardiff Blues A facing their Welsh and Irish counterparts in the second edition of the development competition.
A number of players will no doubt be looking for an opportunity to test themselves at the professional level, or put themselves back in the shop window, whether that be for Cardiff Blues to browse or someone else.
It is likely that the loosehead props will be expecting a chance to prove themselves, with Cardiff Blues only carrying three full-time looseheads currently. As a result, Thomas Davies and Fraser Young may not be fully available to Steve Law early in the season.
In the second row there are two players who are registered with Cardiff RFC but have been training full-time with Cardiff Blues, and it is unlikely that the Blue and Blacks will see either of James Ratti or Callum Bradbury before mid-October.
In the back row too, Lloyd Pike has signed for Cardiff RFC having been released by Scarlets and Llanelli, while Zach O’Driscoll was in excellent form last season, and both may be on the radar of Cardiff Blues A.
Into the backs and it’ll be no surprise to see Tom Habberfield get some Celtic Cup minutes after his release by the Ospreys, especially if Cardiff Blues A want to protect Lewis Jones with Tomos Williams away, while another new RFC signing Ben Williams will fancy a chance having previously played for Worcester A and Ealing.
At fly-half there is an outside chance that Gareth Thompson could be offered some minutes should he be in a position to step up to full-time training.
New signing Sam Beard, formerly of Dragons, Edinburgh and Canterbury, will also likely feature should he still be keen on playing professionally, and another former Dragon Barney Nightingale might also be called upon.
It’s the back three where Cardiff RFC may well be heavily hit though, partially as Cardiff Blues have released a lot of back three players over the summer, with two new signings away with the Welsh squad.
Mostly though it’s due to the performances of Edd Howley, Joe Gatt and Mathew Powell last season, who were in superb try scoring form all year and deserve a chance to show what they can do at the next level, should they wish to take it.
With George Thomas having also signed for Cardiff RFC after being released by Cardiff Blues and no doubt having an eye kept on him, Steve Law will have to ensure he has enough depth in this area to be competitive early in the season.
Of course not all of the above will be selected at once, and some won’t feature at all, but with Cardiff Blues also playing pre-season friendlies during this period, the squads of all will be stretched.
It’s going to take some hard work from Law, who will also be without Gethin Jenkins and T Rhys Thomas on matchdays as they coach Cardiff Blues A, to guide Cardiff RFC safely through the opening few weeks of the campaign, avoiding the poor start we suffered from last year.
If he does that, and the squad avoids too many injuries, there’s a great chance to push on during October and into November. Alternatively, a few weeks playing catch up won’t please anyone as Merthyr are set to be strong once again.