As time in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic rolls on into June, the likelihood of rugby returning in the short-term seems slim-to-none.
At this point the earliest we are likely to see any sort of behind closed doors regional action is late August, which takes us beyond the end of June when contracts in the professional game generally expire and players make their moves between clubs.
This means that the Cardiff Blues squad that will hopefully return to training at some point over the summer, and may even finish the 2019/20 season in a truncated fashion, will not be the same squad that started the campaign.
There is not likely to be a huge amount of change, with few players expected to depart the Arms Park over the summer and up to three new arrivals already expected to be announced, but it gives a good indicator of where John Mulvihill’s squad may be come the resumption of rugby.
Loosehead: Rhys Gill, Brad Thyer, Corey Domachowski, Rhys Carre*, Theo Bevacqua
Hooker: Kris Dacey, Liam Belcher, Kirby Myhill, Ethan Lewis, Iestyn Harris
Tighthead: Dillon Lewis, Dmitri Arhip, Scott Andrews, Keiron Assiratti, Ben Warren
Second Row: Seb Davies, Cory Hill*, James Ratti, Rory Thornton, Macauley Cook, Ben Murphy, TBC South African*, Teddy Williams
Back Row: Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson, Josh Turnbull, Sam Moore, Will Boyde, Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Alun Lawrence
Scrum-Half: Tomos Williams, Lloyd Williams, Lewis Jones, Jamie Hill
Fly-Half: Jarrod Evans, Jason Tovey, Luke Scully*, Ben Burnell
Centre: Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas, Garyn Smith, Harri Millard, Max Llewellyn
Back Three: Josh Adams, Owen Lane, Hallam Amos, Matthew Morgan, Aled Summerhill, Jason Harries, Dan Fish, Ioan Davies
* = new signing, bold = senior academy prospect
Starting up front and the return of Rhys Carre from Saracens is a hugely positive piece of news as the local boy and Cardiff Blues Academy graduate is set to become one of the best looseheads around over the next few years, bringing an edge to our scrummaging and particularly our carrying game.
Hooker and tighthead remain unchanged but second row is where the big changes occur with potentially two departures and two new arrivals.
Filo Paulo is set to make a second exit from the Arms Park after making six appearances this season, signing as cover during December, while it appears James Down will also depart for pastures new after 132 Cardiff Blues and 111 Cardiff RFC outings after 13 years across two spells with the club.
Replacing them will be Wales international Cory Hill, who has signed from the Dragons and will return to the club having come through the Academy as a youngster, while a South African lock is expected to be added to the ranks, potentially in the shape of either Hyron Andrews of the Sharks, or the Southern Kings’ Bobby De Wee.
In the back row the signing of Sam Moore in February will still be like a new signing once rugby gets going again as injury prevented the former Sale Shark from making his Cardiff Blues debut during the Six Nations period, and he may be filling the shoes of Nick Williams when he does so.
The strong suggestion was that the 36-year-old was set to hang up his boots this summer anyway, and with the enforced break it would take some effort for the New Zealander to get back on to the field. Having said that, if there’s one thing we have learned over the past few years it is to never write Big Nick off!
With the summer of 2019 having been one of back line strengthening there is unlikely to be much change here for the Cardiff Blues.
Ryan Edwards will return to Bristol Bears after his loan as injury cover runs out, and Rhun Williams has retired due to injury, while there has been speculation over the futures of Jason Tovey and Jason Harries.
Fly-half Tovey was linked with an early departure from the Arms Park this summer but it seems he will see out his two-year contract, while Harries’ contract is up this summer but he may well be among a number of new contract announcements still be to be made.
The only incoming face in the backs at the moment is Wales U20 fly-half Luke Scully from Worcester Warriors, although I still can’t help but feel that a bit of extra experience in that midfield area wouldn’t go amiss… #BringBackDoc