It’s been 517 days since Cardiff RFC took to the field last, when we went down 20-18 against Aberavon at the Talbot Athletic Ground on the 7th March 2020.
Now though we stand just three weeks away from the Rags returning to on-field action with London Welsh due to arrive at the Arms Park on Saturday 28th August, and supporters are keen to know exactly what the squad and coaching set up will look like.
This week Cardiff Rugby have confirmed that Steve Law will stay in his role as head coach, assisted by Academy Manager Gruff Rees, as the first and second teams properly align to offer development opportunities for young players and game time for fringe players.
Law was keen to stress in his comments to the official website during his signing announcement though, that the Rags will still be “maintaining a core of top class semi-professionals”. So what will that core look like? Well I’ve had a look at what we know about the status of the semi-professional squad that played for Cardiff RFC in March 2020.
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck and caused the cancellation of the 2019/20 Indigo Group Premiership season, and all subsequent rugby below elite professional level, there have been seven announcements regarding Cardiff RFC players signing for other teams.
In the forwards, second row Kieran Martin and openside flanker Zach O’Driscoll have both returned to Bridgend Ravens, the club they signed for the Rags from in the summer of 2018, going on to make 31 and 49 appearances respectively in their two years in the capital.
Then in the backs prolific points scoring fly-half Gareth Thompson has headed for Merthyr after four years at the Arms Park during which he racked up 938 points in 102 games, joining winger Teri Gee at The Wern who scored five tries in seven appearances during 2019/20 after returning from a spell playing in Australia.
Back three duo Joe Gatt and Edd Howley both join Martin and O’Driscoll in Bridgend, returning to their hometown club having scored nine tries in 45 games, and 25 tries in 38 games, respectively. Winger Mathew Powell has also departed, joining Newport after scoring seven tries in 28 games and recovering from a serious knee injury.
Although no new signings have been confirmed by Cardiff RFC over the course of the last 15 months, there has been speculation in the media through Rob Rees of Last Word on Rugby linking us with a trio of Llandovery players.
Hooker Alun Rees previously played for Cardiff during the 2013/14 season having been released by the Ospreys, before joining Steve Law at Bedwas where he would captain the first team and be a regular in the first XV until joining the Drovers in the summer of 2019, scoring twice in 15 games.
Tighthead prop Llyr Green is a Wales U18 international and former member of the Scarlets Academy who, at just 21-years-old, was a three-year stalwart of the Llandovery front row where he had made 67 appearances in all competitions.
Finally, fly-half Jack Maynard was also a Cardiff RFC player in 2013/14, playing 23 times and scoring 64 points while with the Cardiff Rugby Academy having been released by the Scarlets Academy. Since then he too has played for Law at Bedwas as well as appearing for Cross Keys, but has become a key man at Church Bank playing 131 times and scoring 1185 points for the Drovers.
Of course Cardiff RFC were running a relatively large squad in March 2020 meaning there are plenty of players with no news or rumours regarding signing elsewhere or staying on at the Arms Park.
The only other player mentioned in the intervening time has been Morgan Allen, the number eight and Rags captain who signed to play semi-professional rugby league for the West Wales Raiders over the last few months, but team manager Iestyn Williams on the Welsh Premiership Podcast confirmed that he was set to return once his commitments there were over.
As a result these are the players who could return to the Cardiff RFC squad for the resumption of rugby;
Loosehead: Thomas Davies, Fraser Young, Brynley Toms
Hooker: Evan Yardley, Hugo Souto
Tighthead: Peter Lloyd, Ollie Drake
Second Row: Callum Bradbury
Back Row: Sam Pailor, Morgan Allen, Nathan Hudd, Alex Everett, Lloyd Pike, James Thomas, Luke Crocker
Scrum Half: Tom Habberfield
Fly Half: Joe Scrivens
Centre: Jack Brooks, Barney Nightingale, Leon Andrews
Back Three: James Beal
All player departures and rumoured arrivals are subject to change as circumstances may have changed over the course of the last year.