The new boys: Will Boyde

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After yesterday looking at what Josh Adams can bring to the team, we switch now to the forwards, where the back row has been bolstered this summer with the arrival of another man who has come through the Scarlets development pathway.

It’s always a good sign when supporters of the other team are sad to leave a player leave, and that was certainly the reaction from down West when it was announced that Will Boyde would be departing at the end of the season.

The 24-year-old had become a familiar and popular face at Parc y Scarlets since breaking into the first team during the 2016/17 season, where he became a key impact figure off the bench as the Scarlets surged to their first every Pro12 triumph.

On the back of that he would feature regularly in the first XV, starting 32 of 46 games played in the intervening two years, with his versatility showing as he wore six, seven and eight, as required.

As you would expect from a player who has been regularly involved with the Scarlets over the last two years, Boyde doesn’t lack in skills when it comes to his link play, having a mix of deft hands and an appreciation of space, and putting others into it.

Interestingly though, he does a lot of this work from the wider channels, as he is employed on the outside of a 2-4-2 formation that the Scarlets employ, making the pitch as wide as possible to fit their expansive style.

Boyde is clearly an athlete, and at 5ft11 and just over 90kgs he has the frame that allows him a turn of speed as well as the ability to drop a shoulder and run over an opposition player, especially a winger!

However, as he arrives at the Arms Park his role will likely have to change, as the luxury of having players like Jake Ball, David Bulbring and Steve Cummins in the second row, as well as Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Ryan Elias up front, is not something we benefit from when it comes to their physicality and ball carrying.

One aspect of Boyde’s play that became apparent from watching him for this piece was the amount of ruck visits he makes in attack, the sign of a player with a high workrate and prepared to use that for the benefit of the team.

There were occasions last season when Cardiff Blues suffered from allowing the ball to be turned over far too easily, never mind the fact that our breakdown work rarely resulted in quick ball. Utilising Boyde through the centre of the park will allow us to maximise his attacking breakdown visits.

Of course it’ll be the ball carrying that Cardiff Blues supporters are keen to see though, as many see the signing of Boyde as a player who can step into Nick Williams’ sizeable togs at number eight should it be required, while assisting with getting over the gain line if playing on either flank.

Now having mentioned his size earlier, the man from Narberth isn’t ever going to be the destructive power that Big Nick is, instead he’s more in the Josh Navidi mould of a ball carrier with a surprising amount of explosive power that can see him maintain momentum through the initial hit.

Add to that a desire to continue beyond the contact where the key metres are made, Boyde is clearly an effective ball carrier, but what I’d like to see more of as he takes a more prominent role in the centre of the field is him imposing himself more with ball-in-hand.

Defensively, Boyde has all the attributes to slot into the Cardiff Blues back row perfectly, with the high workrate at attacking breakdowns translating into an all-action showing without the ball.

The volume of tackles is impressive, as is the technique, with the ability to either drive back an opposition ball carrier, or get them down quickly and present a turnover opportunity, something which the likes of Nick Williams, Olly Robinson, Josh Navidi or Ellis Jenkins will be keen to work with.

Perhaps if I was being particularly critical I’d like to see Boyde impose himself on the defensive breakdown, in the same way I’d like him to be more of a focal point in the carrying game.

He is clearly an adept operator at the breakdown, and the Scarlets poor form saw them slightly move away from areas of their game that have been so successful last season, including the turnover and counter attacking game.

With the Cardiff Blues it is an area we pride ourselves on, regularly appearing at the top of the turnovers won rankings, and looking to improve our counter attacking as we boost our backs ranks next season.

Therefore I’d like to see him take a more prominent role in the turnover game, whether he’s playing at blindside, openside or number eight.

When it comes to the question of which position is best, for my money he’s a modern blindside, someone who combines the workrate to top the defensive stats with the ability to win a turnover, as well as having an all-court game in attack.

An exciting player who, at 24, is at the right age to kick on and become a regular first team player at regional level, and appears to have the potential to kick on and challenge for a spot at a higher level again. One to watch, that’s for sure.

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