Having looked at the front row yesterday it’s now time to shift into the engine room at the Arms Park, a position where Cardiff have seen the most changes in recent years in the hunt for a duo that can lead the club up the table.
For the ninth summer in a row the Blue and Blacks will bring a new lock into the club this summer as Lopeti Timani arrives from Toulon with plenty of experience under his belt across France and Australia, and as an international with the Wallabies and most recently Tonga.
A marauding back rower in his youth, the soon-to-be 32-year-old will be seen as a second rower at the Arms Park this season where his 6’5″ and 120kg+ frame will be a huge asset at the scrum and maul, at the breakdown, in the defensive line and as a ball carrier, hopefully starting to develop a physical edge that we have been lacking for some time.
Timani will hopefully complement Seb Davies who had one of his best seasons at Cardiff after adjusting to carrying an extra 5kg or so put on his frame over the course of last summer. Still maintaining his athleticism he often stood out as a better performer desperate the overall team showing, became a leader when the misfits took the field in December, and impressed for Wales during the Six Nations.
The 26-year-old’s exclusion from the summer tour was a confusing one, but will hopefully prove to be a positive in the medium term as he gets a full pre-season under his belt again, can hit the ground running as a player and a leader, and continue to improve for the Blue and Blacks.
Behind them is a situation similar to that of both loosehead and tighthead props where Matthew Screech and Rory Thornton sit in the squad as players in their late 20s, with a solitary Welsh cap to their names, who played a good number of games last season, but could well be at risk of moving on next summer as they come out of contract.
They will be keen to impress, but with an eye on rebuilding for the future there is opportunity for them to be leapfrogged as Teddy Williams prepares for a second full season with the first team having struggled for game time during 2021/22 with team selections focusing on safe and solid in a nightmare season schedule.
At just 21 Williams is developing all areas of his game, but if he can become Cardiff’s key lineout forward over the next 12 months then he could make himself invaluable to Dai Young, with the lock already catching the eye as a ball carrier and with his work at the attacking breakdown.
Both of Joe Peard and Rhys Anstey are also waiting in the wings looking to impress, with Peard newly arriving from Dragons and Anstey looking to build on his misfits appearances. Physically imposing players they may well feature heavily for the Rags early in the campaign, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see them in first team action by next summer.
The lock ranks will also include Josh Turnbull this year as the club captain could well feature more regularly in the second row with the coaches no doubt keen to get his leadership on the field, but also aware that the strength in depth in the back row is unbelievable. The 34-year-old is well on the way to legendary status at the Arms Park, and will do more than a job in whatever position he is picked.
Then there is the question around where James Ratti fits into the picture at the Arms Park. After breaking into the professional ranks as a lock he has spent the last 18 months or so reverting to the back row and impressing at number eight, but to get his ball carrying on the field the answer might be second row for the 24-year-old.
Another intriguing season in the engine room, and another position where brave team selections could well prove fruitful for the upcoming campaign and certainly beyond as we head towards a squad overhail next summer.