The fly-half cover question

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The news of Rhys Patchell’s lengthy injury was a huge blow for supporters of particularly the Scarlets, especially when combined with Jon Davies’ injury, as they’ll now be without two key players for most of the season.

However, as we all know, the rugby world revolves around Cardiff Blues so I’m hijacking the Scarlets bad news and making it ours as the knock-on implications of Patchell being ruled out of the upcoming Wales game against the Barbarians and the Six Nations is that Jarrod Evans’ involvement with Team Wales will increase.

Of course we are very proud of seeing Jarrod go on to earn more international honours and he thoroughly deserves it, assuming he keeps up the form shown against Cheetahs and during the last two seasons between now and the Six Nations.

As always for regional supporters though the conundrum is that seeing players move on to the next level cuts down their availability with us, and at the Arms Park we weren’t that flush with fly-halves to begin with after the departures of Gareth Anscombe, Steven Shingler and Ben Jones last season.

Now the wisdom or otherwise of the recruitment and retention can be debated around this if people wish, keeping in mind the disruption caused by Project Reset, but I’d prefer to look forward in how to solve the problem we currently face.

That problem of course is that with Jarrod Evans called up to the Wales squad and Jason Tovey having been stretchered off with an ankle injury last weekend, we currently have no fly-half available to play Benetton away on the 30th November.

Jarrod Evans Scarlets

We don’t know the extent of Tovey’s injury yet, although there were reports he was stood by the tunnel at the end of the game, but if it keeps him out for a number of months or should he pick up another injury then we may well be struggling for a 10 during February and March.

So who are the options that could do with some time at fly-half over the next two weeks, and possibly beyond?

Matthew Morgan

The full-back has arguably been Cardiff Blues’ best player over the course of the six weeks of the Guinness Pro14 so far, playing some of his best rugby since joining in the summer of 2016.

Prior to that summer though he had spent the majority of his career at fly-half, at both Ospreys and Bristol, so that even now 57 of his 115 senior professional starts have come wearing number 10, basically half of every game he has started.

There were criticisms of his fly-half play during that time, particularly when it came to game management, but three years on with a wiser rugby head on his shoulders he may well be in a better position to return to the position over the next few months.

Dan Fish

Another full-back by trade, Fish did play at fly-half during his youth days but played pretty much exclusively at 15 or on the wing once he made the step up to play for Cardiff Blues until the nasty hamstring tear that kept him out for almost a year in November 2016.

Having recovered from that but losing a yard of his electric pace, the decision was made to move Fish forward into the number 10 jersey, and he has started their on-and-off for Cardiff RFC over the last two seasons, as well as for Cardiff Blues A and against Uruguay last season.

Still a dangerous open field runner and with a booming left boot there have been strides taken in his game management, but it may require a test at the professional level to see if Fish has what it takes to make a permanent switch.

Dan Fish Cardiff Blues A

Ben Thomas

21-year-old Thomas has been setting the Indigo Group Premiership alight for the last 12 months, winning the league’s Young Player of the Year Award last season as he played a key role in helping Cardiff RFC finish as the 2018/19 runners up alongside winning the Specsavers Cup.

Unfortunately he has spent essentially the entirety of that time playing at inside centre, but John Mulvihill speaking last week referred to Thomas as a ’10 playing at 12’, therefore he could move him inside over the next few weeks.

Further comments from Mulvihill did suggest that Thomas would stay at 12 as he is introduced to the first team over the next few weeks, so perhaps the dual playmaker system will stay with someone joining the young star as part of the 10/12 axis.

Rhys Davies

A left-field suggestion perhaps given his lack of exposure, but Academy fly-half Davies is the only member of the squad behind Tovey who has consistently worn 10 in recent years.

The 21-year-old started a number of games for Merthyr in the second half of last season and featured for Cardiff Blues in this year’s Celtic Cup.

He has spent recent weeks with the Wales Sevens setup, making the squad for the Elche Sevens last weekend, but Mulvihill could opt to promote him to the first team if he feels he can make the step up over the next few weeks.

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