This week on the Cardiff Rugby Life will see the return of ‘The New Boys’ series where I take a look at this summer’s Cardiff Blues signings.
What will be noticeable is that three of the new signings, including the marquee arrival Josh Adams, will be backs, as Jason Tovey and Hallam Amos will also ply their trade at the Arms Park next season.
The only true forward signing is Will Boyde, and he arrives to bolster a back row that was arguably already one of our strongest areas of the field. Rory Thornton also signs permanently, having spent last season here on loan.
Now, hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and in Cardiff Blues land we are perhaps guilty of sometimes spending too long using it rather than looking forward.
However, looking at the upcoming season it’s quite clear that, even after the signings of Boyde and Thornton, there is little depth at loosehead prop, a lack of bulk in the second row, no out-and-out number eight backup for Nick Williams and an issue with quality at hooker.
What we do have though is an abundance of good quality centres and back three players, with our stock of backs outside of fly-half such that most teams in Europe would be jealous, let alone Wales or the Pro14.
This is where the hindsight kicks in and the mind wanders to the question of ‘could some of our new signings been passed on to address the issues up front?’.
Admittedly the issue of Project Reset and the effective recruitment/retention freeze of January to March had an impact on proceedings in this area, but I think most people would answer ‘yes’ to the above question as we look at the squad now.
That is now in the past though, there is no point looking back at what could have been, instead we must look forward to the next 12 months, and putting in place clear plans for recruitment ahead the 2020/21 season.
Money will once again be a restriction so searching for the right player at the right price will be tricky, but the World Cup puts a lot of lesser known players in the shop window so knowing now what we’re looking for is key.
We start with a loosehead, and one who is perhaps a touch more mobile than the options we have now, to replace the work that Rhys Carre was doing around the field.
Rhys Gill and Corey Donachowski are solid scrummagers, while Brad Thyer is becoming a well rounded player in the number one jersey, but adding someone dynamic could be a smart move to increase selection options.
At hooker it’s all about weight and set piece power. Someone in the Matthew Rees mould who can assert their dominance at scrum time from the centre of the front row and add some grunt in ball carrying and at attacking breakdowns.
This would compliment the more mobile back row converts that largely make up our hooking ranks as things stand.
It’s a similar story in the second row where we are lacking some sheer nastiness. A hard nosed, take no nonsense type of bloke to add weight at the set piece and generally around the park.
Finally at number eight, where a big ball carrier is the order of the day. Based on the possibility that Nick Williams may call it a day at the end of the coming season, planning a successor will be crucial.
It’ll be interesting to see the development of Alun Lawrence and James Botham in this regard, but bringing in an experienced head is highly unlikely to do any harm.
The rugby management should also be considering whether fly-half is a position they want to be looking at, as even with the signing of Tovey we look light in this respect.
If Ben Thomas is seen as a 10, or Rhys Davies is deemed ready to step up then there might not be a need to use precious budget space in this area, but it will need to be considered nonetheless.
In recent years it has felt like there has been little or no recruitment strategy, and that players have been considered on an ‘as they become available’ type of situation.
Now though, with the World Cup offering the perfect scouting opportunity, and a settled Cardiff Blues coaching staff in place who know what type of rugby they want to play, the tables can be turned.
Perhaps we can finally get ahead of the game at the Arms Park, he wrote feeling bizarrely hopeful.