The future of the Cardiff Blues continues to look promising as six talented youngsters have signed their first professional deals at the Arms Park ahead of the 2020/21 season.
With budgets set to be tight over the next few years the potential coming out of the Academy is more important than ever, and the good work Gruff Rees is doing as Academy Manager seems to be paying off already.
Starting up front and hooker Iestyn Harris signs a professional deal after a strong comeback season in 2019/20. The 21-year-old missed most of the previous 12 months with a serious knee injury, having caught the eye winning 10 Wales U20 caps in 2018, but returned with eight appearances for Cardiff RFC as the Blue and Blacks marched towards an Indigo Group Premiership title before lockdown.
Also in the front row is Will Davies-King, the 22-year-old who has taken the long way to professional rugby having played for Chepstow RFC, then gone to Cardiff Met before appearing in the Premiership for Pontypridd and Cardiff RFC. Picked up by Cardiff Blues in 2018 the former Wales U20 international made his senior debut for the club away at Calvisano last season.
At lock there are a number of eyes on Teddy Williams who has turned down serious interest from big clubs over the Bridge to stay at the Arms Park. The 19-year-old struggled with injury last season, making just six appearances for Cardiff RFC and missing out on the U20 Six Nations, but the former Ysgol Glantaf 1st XV captain is now ready to make an impact on the senior squad.
In the back row there is also intrigue over how Alun Lawrence will get on, with number eight an area that continues to lack depth for Cardiff Blues and in Welsh Rugby generally. The 22-year-old made five appearances in all competitions last season, alongside featuring regularly for Pontypridd, scoring his first try in the win away at Benetton last November.
Into the backs and Max Llewellyn makes the step up to the senior squad full-time after spending two seasons at the heart of the Cardiff RFC midfield. Six tries in 28 games for the Blue and Blacks helped him win a Specsavers Cup and set him up for a Cardiff Blues debut, impressing against Edinburgh and Ospreys at inside centre.
Finally, Mason Grady is awarded a professional contract despite having only just graduated the U18s last season. It’s been a meteoric rise for the centre who is equally comfortable on the wing who has gone from a Wales U18 international to a Cardiff Blues senior squad member in just 12 months, impressing for Wales U20 before lockdown and getting a lot of people excited by his carrying ability, speed and finishing.