Cardiff Blues this week started informing players whether they had been selected for age grade and Academy spots as the development pathway prepares to get up and running again after a tough year.
With the Dewar Shield, Regional Age Grade Championship, WRU College League and Celtic Cup all cancelled the opportunities for any players aged 14-17 have been non-existent, while those in the 18-21 category have only seen game time if called upon in the first team or in either of the A team friendlies that have been staged.
Of course one of the other development opportunities exists within the Indigo Group Premiership, but with that also falling by the wayside it means that what is often the first exposure to senior rugby for many young talents has not been available.
That will hopefully change for the beginning of next season, with calls coming for the Premiership and Championship to be taken out of the Welsh Rugby Union’s wider roadmap for the return of community rugby and allowed to start up again in September, which would see the return of Cardiff RFC to competitive action.
Ahead of the covid-19 pandemic, and even ahead of and separate to the re-brand of the first team at the Arms Park, the decision was taken by the board to utilise the RFC as a proper second team, taking us back to the days of it being the Rags. This would be in order to properly take control of the development of players in that crucial 18-21 age range.
Reports in the media recently, initially from The Rugby Paper and then essentially ripped off on Dai Sport, have suggested that this plan is under threat due to an agreement within the Professional Rugby Board that no professional side in Wales should not retain any interest in a Premiership team, and Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC are both operated by Cardiff Blues Limited.
However, these reports are comfortably wide of the mark, and it is unclear why the anonymous PRB source quoted has chosen to take this to the media when it is incorrect, and why the media have chosen to run it without fact checking the information.
Instead what we are looking at is a situation whereby Cardiff Blues Limited cannot invest any PRB funds into the Premiership side, which is the agreement reached by the PRB, and which does not take place at the Arms Park.
As a result Cardiff, who have always had a recorded difference in the way we are set up legally due to being a continuation of the pre-2003 limited company, as opposed to Ospreys, for example, who were formed from an amalgamation of Swansea and Neath, and subsequently took over Bridgend, will continue to operate Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC as two teams from one club with separate funding streams.
At a recent supporter Q&A, chief executive Richard Holland said “It (Cardiff RFC) is going to be an important development tool and I think it’s also important to say that we want to make sure the RFC is competitive. There will be a supplementary group of important semi-professional players that will help the Academy players make the team competitive.
“With regards to Steve Law we very much hope he stays and is part of our plans. He’s done a great job and we want him to be part of it moving forward, but clearly given the change of where the team sits within the organisation he will have to be happy to make that move too.”