With the return of the Guinness Pro14 around the corner it’s time to have a look at the Cardiff Blues squad that John Mulvihill will have at his disposal.
Despite the fact that we are technically still in the middle of the 2019/20 season, recruitment and retention has been completed for 2020/21, and as a result three new signings have arrived at the Arms Park.
However, we start this summer’s ‘The New Boys’ series with a player who has actually been at the Cardiff Blues since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but is yet to make his debut as Sam Moore overcame injury right in time for the season to be suspended by the virus.
The 21-year-old arrived somewhat under the radar back in February, released from his contract at Sale Sharks early to allow him to make the move at the Arms Park, with first team opportunities at the AJ Bell Stadium restricted by the likes of the Curry and du Preez brothers.
Certainly on the face of it the signing of a young, 6ft6, 115-odd kilo, Welsh-qualified number eight who was a key member of the England U20 side that finished second in the 2018 U20 Six Nations and was invited by Eddie Jones to train with the senior side would seem to be an excellent signing.
Moore is a bit of an enigma though, with injuries leaving him having made just four appearances at English Championship level or above over the last two seasons, one in the Championship Cup for Doncaster, two in what was the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and one in the Gallagher Premiership for Sale.
It leaves footage of Moore in somewhat short supply, but I’ve pieced together some clips from his U20 days, interspersed with a few clips from his Sale and Doncaster appearances, to give a flavour of what he can offer Cardiff Blues if he gets fit and a run of games under his belt.
Of course the big Cardiff Blues news over the past week has been the retirement of Nick Williams, and as the dust settles on the big man hanging up his boots, focus turns to who can replace him in the number eight jersey at the Arms Park.
There is a school of thought that says Josh Navidi’s best position may well be eight, in a similar mould to how Michael Hooper slotted in at the back of the Australian scrum over the last few years, with Will Boyde comparable to that, while a few weeks ago I looked at the emergence of Alun Lawrence.
Moore could well be the guy who takes over the mantle from Williams though, and to do that the defensive leadership shown in the clips above will be key. Getting off the line quickly and making dominant tackles to really set the tone for the rest of the defence.
A real point of difference for Moore could be in the role of a lineout jumper, providing another option as the Cardiff Blues lineout looks to move on from it’s poor performance before the season suspension.
Previously there were team selections that seemed to be made at lock and flanker that had lineout jumping in mind that potentially sacrificed other areas of our game, but looking at the athleticism of Moore in the second clip then there’s no reason that he couldn’t be a viable third option at the set piece.
With the third clip offering evidence of strong maul defence work, there’s hope that Moore could be that dominant physical force at the set piece, mixing that with the attacking skills you’d hope from a number eight in a team that looks to the position for a talisman.
The presence at the back of the scrum should be bread and butter for a number eight and looking at the footwork of Moore as that England U20 scrum drives forward will hopefully be needed plenty as the Cardiff Blues scrum continues to improve.
Of course what every supporter will be keen to see from Moore is the carrying though, after a few seasons of watching the team lack the ability to regularly get over the gain line. With Williams retiring there is concern that all ability will be lost in that regard.
From the few clips I’ve seen of Moore though there is a chance that he could be the lead carrier in the Cardiff Blues squad.
Looking particularly at the third clip and the option to utilise Moore on good first phase ball, he narrows the French defence with his carrying angle and gives England U20 the option to play either side of the breakdown with the opposition struggling to get into shape.
Then the first clip sees Moore come short off 10 during phase play and give his side front foot ball while taking at least three French defenders out of the game.
What is equally impressive is the handling to take the ball at speed on that line, ignoring what is definitely a forward pass, which he can hopefully expand on in what I hope will finally be the start of Cardiff Blues’ expansive offload game.
Particularly looking at that last clip as Moore peels off the back of the driving maul before offloading to put the scrum-half over for a try, and it gives real hope that Moore has the skill and awareness to be a critical part of what could be a game changing element in our attack.
All-in-all the evidence is limited when it comes to Sam Moore, and perhaps when it comes to analysing him as a new signing the fact that he has severely limited playing time over the last few years is the main aspect to analyse.
If he can avoid injury and string a run of games together though then at 21 he still has loads of time on his side. His physicality and athleticism seem to be at a good level, and there’s a natural opening for him to become a key cog in the Cardiff Blues squad.
One to keep a close eye on.