Team Report: Half Back

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So the Team Report moves into the backs and with the area of the field that Cardiff Rugby is perhaps most famous for over it’s 144 year history, the half-backs.

Percy Bush, Cliff Morgan, Gareth Edwards, Terry Holmes, Barry Jones, Gareth Davies, Jonathan Davies, Rob Howley and Gareth Anscombe are just a few of the players who have written their names into the history books at the Arms Park down the years, and now the current crop try to do the same.

Starting at scrum-half and the current first choice is Tomos Williams, the livewire nine who has gone from breakthrough star during the 2016/17 season to 20-cap Wales international by the end of the 2019/20 season, at times donning the red nine jersey consistently.

Unfortunately though, between injury and Wales call-ups, the 25-year-old is unlikely to feature much, if at all, for Cardiff Blues during the 2020/21 campaign. So the question is, who will replace him?

The obvious choice is Lloyd Williams, one of the greatest servants to this club in recent years, currently sitting second on the post-2003 appearance list with 212. On the rate of his current appearances, Fa’ao Filise’s record of 255 will be caught inside three years.

Still only 30, Williams has been playing some of his best rugby since his international career seemed to come to an end in November 2016, getting that zip back to his passing game to complement his excellent box kicking, rather than letting the kicking hinder his passing game. He will be vitally important this season for Cardiff Blues.

Lloyd will be backed up by Lewis Jones, who signed a new contract before lockdown to take him into his 11th season with the Cardiff Blues, looking to add to the 112 appearances he has racked up to-date.

As key in the dressing room as he is on the field, Jones’ energy off the bench will be needed to ensure the team drive towards full 80-minute performances rather than fall off the pace at the end of games.

Also backing up Lloyd and hoping to gain first team exposure this season will be Jamie Hill, the Academy scrum-half who has been highly rated on his way through the system, bouncing back from being released at 18 to re-sign at 19, impress for Cardiff Blues A and earn Wales U20 honours.

Now 21 it’s a surprise he has not made his first team debut yet, but with just two senior scrum-halves available for the majority of the upcoming season, Hill’s chance will come. A smart passer, with an eye for a snipe and an excellent left footed box kick, he has the skills to make it in the first team.

On to the players who will line-up outside them, and of course Jarrod Evans will once again be the first choice fly-half going into the season. With 76 appearances at just 24, and approaching 400 points off the tee, his experience belies his years.

What has set him apart so far in his career has been his playmaking and individual running threat, almost a throwback to the fly-halves of the 70s with his jinking carries, but now it’s time to see Evans’ game management match his creativity. If he can achieve that then there’s no reason he can’t go on to be the Cardiff Blues 10 for many years and continue to earn Wales caps.

The situation with fly-half in the national squad at the moment is less clear than at scrum-half, with question marks over the fitness of Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell and Dan Biggar, as well as the international allegiance of Callum Sheedy, but the likelihood is that Evans will miss large chunks of the season.

As a result the task of running the attack will likely fall to Jason Tovey for much of the season, the 31-year-old who should come into the campaign in a confident manner after a man-of-the-match performance against the Ospreys last month.

A different style of fly-half from the flat attacking threat that Evans is, if the centres outside Tovey can get on his wave length of when to step on to the ball and when to drop a touch deeper, then there’s no reason the attack can’t fire with the former Dragons men wearing the 10 jersey.

The options to play backup to Tovey while Evans is away with Wales could come from outside the fly-half ranks, with Ben Thomas or Matthew Morgan potentially turned to, but there’s a new face who could have something to say about that.

Luke Scully has arrived from Worcester Warriors over the lockdown, and the former Wales U20 fly-half will be keen to get some minutes under his belt after impressing for Worcester’s A side and during the U20 Six Nations last season.

Self-styled on Dan Biggar, the 20-year-old appears to potentially have more to his game than the Northampton man as he matches a big kicking presence with a strong creative ability and an eye for a gap himself. If developed correctly he could be a very shrewd signing indeed.

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