Class of 2020: Where are they now?

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It’s fair to say the summer of 2020 wasn’t exactly a normal one, and unfortunately it meant a number of players left Cardiff without a proper Arms Park farewell.

Hopefully that will be possible in the coming weeks and months as crowds finally prepare to return in Wales, but in the meantime I’ve had a look at what the six players who departed at the end of the cut-short 2019/20 campaign have been up to over the last 12 months.

Macauley Cook

The long serving loose forward left Cardiff after over 10 years linked to the club last summer, having made 167 first team appearances and 48 Rags appearances in that time, and become a real fans favourite as a player who gave 110% whenever he was called upon.

Cook headed for Jersey, linking up with the likes of Tom Williams, Jack Roberts and Tim Grey who have all had associations with Cardiff over the years, but had to wait until March 2021 to make his debut when a shortened Greene King Championship campaign got under way.

Playing in nine of ten league games, starting eight of them at a mix of second row and blindside flanker, he became an integral part of the squad that won five of their games and finished sixth, right in the middle of the table.

James Down

Another Academy graduate and long-time servant of the club, Down left during the summer of 2020 after nearly 14 years with Cardiff, playing 132 times for the first team and 111 times for the Rags, as well as spending a season with London Welsh in the Gallagher Premiership.

It was a totally different direction for the big second row as he headed East to Russia, signing with Lokomotiv Penza of the Russian Premier League, based nearly 400 miles South-East of Moscow.

Joining during the early part of the 2020/21 campaign he helped his new team to finish top of the league during the regular season, before unfortunately losing out to Enisey-STM in the two-legged Final. So far in the 2021/22 season they sit third with two wins and a defeat from their opening three games.

Nick Williams

The big number eight brought a superb 16-year career in the professional game to a close during the coronavirus pandemic as he hung up his boots after spells with North Harbour, Auckland Blues, Munster, Aironi and Ulster, before finishing with 77 appearances for Cardiff.

A fan favourite for his infectious personality off the field and his powerful performances on it, he kept up the tradition created by the likes of Hemi Taylor and Xavier Rush that saw big New Zealand-born back rowers coming to the Arms Park and making a huge impact.

Post-retirement Williams has done work as an ambassador for Bearhug joint supports and muscle sleeves, and the blOKes mental health awareness platform, as well as doing work with the Cardiff Rugby Community Foundation.

Rhun Williams

Unfortunately injury brought Rhun Williams’ burgeoning career to a premature end as he suffered nerve damage in his shoulder making a try saving tackle away at Zebre in February 2018.

The Wales U20 Grand Slam winner had made 29 appearances for the first time and was on the verge of a call-up to the senior national team, with his fluid running style catching the eye in attack.

Since officially retiring he has studied for a degree in Construction and is seeking opportunities in the property development sector.

Filo Paulo

The big Samoan second row finished up a short second stint at the club last summer having been drafted in as injury cover at the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup, adding six appearances to the 49 he made during his first stint at the club between 2013 and 2015.

Paulo returned to New Zealand and signed for the Manawatu Turbos ahead of the 2020 National Provincial Championship, playing in nine of the ten games, and starting six, in a tough season as his side finished bottom of the Championship division.

When a possible move to Lyon in the Top14 as a medical joker fell through due to France’s tight medical requirements, Paulo signed with Avalon Rugby Club playing in Wellington, but was still called up to the Samoa squad recently where he came off the bench in two games against the Maori All Blacks.

Ryan Edwards

Newport-born winger Ryan Edwards spent a second stint on loan at Cardiff before the pandemic cut the season short, scoring in the last win in front of fans at the Arms Park as we beat Benetton with a bonus point back in February 2020.

An injury crisis in the back three had seen him brought in, after similar circumstances had seen him spend time at the club in 2018, but after returning to parent club Bristol Bears his contract came to an end and he was left looking for the club.

It appears he has left professional rugby behind and begun a career in Law earlier this year in his native Newport.

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