The Rags: The Academy Boys

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The final aspect of the Cardiff RFC squad for the 2021/22 campaign is the Cardiff Academy players.

Having looked at the semi-professional players returning to the Arms Park from the pre-pandemic squad, as well as the new semi-professional signings, the rest of the Rags squad will be made up of stars of the future.

There is a slight misconception that this means that some of the young players on the fringe of the first team will be in line for plenty of minutes this season, but the focus will be on those players recently out of age grade rugby and making their first forays into the senior game.

Efan Daniel impressed during Wales U20’s Six Nations campaign last season, standing out with his physicality on both sides of the ball, as well as possessing an incredible turn of pace for a big man. His lineout throwing improved during that tournament and will continue to improve with regular Premiership minutes.

Next to him in the front row was Nathan Evans who had a solid showing at the scrum during those Six Nations in his first outing at that level. A good few months packing down in the first half of this Premiership season should see him ready to have a strong U20 Six Nations after Christmas.

In the second row it appears that Rhys Anstey has bulked up a fair bit over the summer, and has spent time training with the first team at the beginning of pre-season. Enjoying a first spell of competitive rugby since the pandemic started will be key for his development.

Then the back row, as we’ve come to expect from Cardiff over the years, is stacked with potential stars.

Alex Mann captained Wales U20 at the back end of last season and was one of the standout players, leading by example with his work rate. There’s plenty of game time available with no obvious openside in the semi-professional Rags squad to develop his work over the ball and link play in attack.

At number eight Evan Lloyd has been one to watch since his days at Cardiff & Vale College, and although his playing time was restricted during the U20 Six Nations, he showed glimpses of his power. Learning from Morgan Allen will be superb for his progression.

Into the backs and Ethan Lloyd already has Rags experience with six appearances before the pandemic. A very tidy scrum-half with game management skills beyond his years, he dove-tailed well with Tom Habberfield before the 2019/20 season was cancelled.

Jacob Beetham’s development will be interesting to watch as he largely came through the system as a fly-half but has played consistently at full-back for Wales U20 and looked very at home during the recent Six Nations. With only one fly-half and no recognisable full-back in the semi-professional squad there is game time available in both jerseys.

Into the centre and Ioan Evans is a new arrival at the Arms Park having signed with the Academy after previously being released at U18 level. Showing off high level defensive skills for Wales U20, getting opportunities with ball in hand will be the main aim for the midfielder.

Finally, there was disappointment for Theo Cabango over the summer as injury ruled him out of the U20 Six Nations, but he’s back fit and ready to fire on the wing for Cardiff. Also capable of covering at full-back he’s an exciting attacker with his pace, balance and finishing, and needs a run of Premiership games to show what he can do.

The key for these players will be properly integrating into the Rags squad, forming a tight group that has an eye on development but a primary focus on winning.

There is plenty of talent in the Academy at the moment, and regular Premiership minutes together is what the Rags can, and always should have, offered. If it’s managed well it could take our development pathway to the next level.

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