So I’m sticking my head above the parapet here and have put together a Cardiff Blues team of the decade for 2010-2019.
Some of these I am prepared to die on a hill for, others not so much, but please don’t kill me over them because I’m ill and fragile. Many thanks in advance.
Loosehead – Gethin Jenkins
Essentially a no-brainer this one as Jenkins was the first choice loosehead for every season of the campaign, when fit, with the exception of 2012/13 when he was at Toulon and the end of 2018/19 and start of 2019/20 when he had retired.
A world class player in his position and a leader within the squad, Melon is the undoubted starter in the number one jersey in any Cardiff Blues team of the decade.
Honourable mention – John Yapp
Hooker – Kris Dacey
Now this was a tough one, and there will be many out there, possibly a majority of people, who would pick Matthew Rees. That wouldn’t be an incorrect selection by any measure, with Smiler having served us well during his time at the Arms Park, but for that period between 2013 and 2017, Kris Dacey gets the nod for me.
20 tries in 94 games during that period is a superb return for a hooker, especially in a team not recognised for its driving maul strength, while his work around the park in general was invaluable in that period.
Honourable mentions – Matthew Rees, T Rhys Thomas
Tighthead – Taufa’ao Filise
Another no-brainer as anyone not including the King of Tonga in their Cardiff Blues team of the decade is just wrong. Plain wrong.
Finishing on 255 games at his retirement in 2018, Filise was famed for his strong scrummaging and carrying, as well as his remarkable longevity that took him up to 40-years-old as a player and a candidate to be our first choice tighthead.
Honourable mention – Scott Andrews
Locks – Josh Turnbull, Paul Tito
It hasn’t been a great decade in terms of second rows, with Cardiff Blues largely failing to replace those that formed part of the Amlin Challenge Cup winning squad of 2010. Paul Tito makes the team of the decade from that squad as one of our best non-Welsh qualified signings and a real hard-nosed physical lock.
Josh Turnbull isn’t a natural second row, and on a head-to-head you may select 2010-2014 Bradley Davies, but Turnbull has been a brilliant servant for Cardiff Blues since arriving in 2014, covering a number of positions and often being our lead tackler and carrier, as well as single-handedly saving the lineout on a number of occasions.
Honourable mentions – Bradley Davies, Deiniol Jones, Seb Davies
Back Row – Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Xavier Rush
Now this is where decision making gets tough as there have been some world class players, Cardiff Blues legends and even a two-time British and Irish Lions captain in the back row ranks at the Arms Park over the last decade.
In the end Josh Navidi has got the nod at blindside after years of grafting in a Blues jersey to play 159 times over the last 10 years and bide his time before making a real mark at international level. Opposite him is Ellis Jenkins who has also joined the 100 club in the last decade.
One of the most naturally talented players to grace the Arms Park, Jenkins beats out Martyn Williams and Sam Warburton for the number seven jersey in my team, as the player in some of the best years of his career who has consistently performed at the highest level for Cardiff Blues between 2010 and 2019.
Then at number eight it was a tough decision to leave out Nick Williams who has offered so much to the team in recent years, but some of the performances of Xavier Rush between 2010 and 2012 were too good to ignore. He almost makes it because of that showing away at Wasps in the Challenge Cup semi-final alone.
Honourable mentions – Martyn Williams, Ma’ama Molitika, Nick Williams, Robin Copeland, Olly Robinson, Sam Warburton, Andries Pretorious
Scrum-Half – Tomos Williams
A tough one this as Lloyd Williams has been such a stalwart for the majority of the decade, while Richie Rees put in many fine performances during it’s early part, but in terms of bursting on to the scene and setting it alight, nobody has done so quite like Tomos Williams.
Probably the player who has caught the eye with their raw talent more than anyone for Cardiff Blues in the same time, the young scrum-half has not only taken the number nine jersey at the Arms Park but is well on his way to doing the same with Wales.
Honourable mentions – Lloyd Williams, Richie Rees
Fly-Half – Gareth Anscombe
This was, to a degree, a straight shoot-out between three players who are currently vying for the Wales number ten jersey when fit, as Anscombe, Rhys Patchell and Jarrod Evans have all graduated to the international arena after featuring for Cardiff Blues.
It is the current Osprey who gets my nod in the Cardiff Blues team of the decade, despite not playing as much of his rugby as he’d have liked at fly-half during his time here. A classy operator who could effortlessly run a game and turn it on its head single-handedly, his second half performance against Gloucester in the 2018 Challenge Cup Final will go down in history.
Honourable mentions – Jarrod Evans, Rhys Patchell
Centres – Jamie Roberts, Casey Laulala
While the current first choice midfielders are both fine players, it is difficult to look past this centre combination when it comes to naming a Cardiff Blues team of the decade.
At his hard running best, Jamie Roberts produced some of his most memorable performances with us in the three years before heading to Paris with Racing 92, becoming one of the players which Warren Gatland built his 2012 Grand Slam winning side around.
Casey Laulala was a superb non-Welsh qualified signing alongside him. A centre who just made the game look so easy and complimented Doc’s abilities perfectly as he scored 15 tries in 67 games, setting up countless others along the way.
Honourable mentions – Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo
Wingers – Tom James, Alex Cuthbert
As the player who occupied the number eleven jersey for much of the decade it’s difficult to select anyone other than Cardiff Blues top try scorer TJ to fly down the left wing.
Particularly in the two years after his return from Exeter, James was in superb form, scoring 17 tries in 35 games and earning a deserved recall to the Wales squad, for whom he really should have won more caps but for a falling out with Warren Gatland. A club legend on the field, and someone who changed us all for the better off the field with his battle against and work to raise awareness of mental health.
Opposite him was a tough decision as Owen Lane has been superb since bursting on to the scene, but Alex Cuthbert gets the nod particularly for his consistently high level of performance for Cardiff Blues while being so unfairly criticised for his Wales performances.
His 46 tries in 115 games this decade is an excellent return, putting him second on the top try scorers list behind TJ, while The Big Horse’s added work in the carrying game and at attacking breakdowns made him an invaluable squad member.
Honourable mentions – Blaine Scully, Owen Lane
Full-back – Joaquin Tuculet
This is the left-field selection.
There’s cases to be made for Ben Blair, Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Fish and Matthew Morgan, but all have downsides to their selections as well, therefore I have opted for a player who was only briefly at the Arms Park but made such an impression with their quality of play.
Tuculet only made 13 appearances but his positional play and attacking threat were of the highest order and it’s no surprise that he’s gone on to be so important for the Jaguares in Super Rugby and Argentina at international level.
He could be selected for his late match-winning try against Connacht alone that sent Pat Lam into a furious meltdown.
Honourable mentions – Ben Blair, Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Fish, Matthew Morgan