Analysis: Cross-ing the line

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In recent years with the Rags being utilised as a proper second team at Cardiff the trend has been to keep an eye on the semi-professionals in the squad who could step up to the first team.

There has of course been the success of James Ratti making the leap from the 2nd XV into the 1sts, albeit while largely training full-time for the months building up to that, while the relative success of some of the misfits in those games against Toulouse and Harlequins has convinced people that the jump can be made with a degree of ease.

However, the truth is that it remains a fair old leap to go from the semi-professional Welsh Premiership to the professional ranks of the United Rugby Championship, particularly for those in the pack to get to the required physical level if they have been out of the pro game for more than 12 months.

There is though some circumstances where it is possible and for someone like Rags winger Dewi Cross who only left the Ospreys last summer, plays in the wider channels and has shown that he is comfortably too good for the Premiership, he is a player that the Cardiff first team coaches should be keeping in mind.

The headline when it comes to Cross is, at the time of writing between the Indigo Group Welsh Premiership semi-final and final, the 23-year-old has 23 tries in 20 games across all competitions. It’s a quite ridiculous strike rate that obliterates previous Rags try scoring records in the semi-professional era.

Cardiff are the best side in the league this season, so the tries could be written off as expected against weaker opposition, but he has scored against every opponent in the division at least once and on the bigger stages of Cup and League semi-finals.

Cross also shows off an array of different tries. Yes, there are the classic winger finishes to dot down in the corner, but he can also pop up in the right moment off a shoulder in midfield, and has more than enough ability to beat a man one-on-one to go over out wide. The Pontypridd defender is reportedly still looking for the ball after the dummy in the second clip above.

When it comes to an all-round back three game it can be tricky to immediately see the transferrable skills between the semi-pro and professional level in Wales as the tactical kicking game is not as absolutely crucial to proceedings in the Premiership as it is in the URC, yet the glimpses we have seen from Cross don’t lead to any cause for concern.

Solid under the high ball he crucially displays an eye for a counter attack at all times which is important to the ethos of Cardiff Rugby. Particularly in the final clip, as he comes across from his left wing and prompts Cam Winnett to attack the space on the right, demonstrates an ability to scan the field and identify space quickly that the best wingers all possess.

That quickness of thought also translates to defence, where Cross can come up at pace from the wing and jam in on attackers to force poor decisions, turnovers and ultimately tries, a facet of play that also remains a backbone of both the Rags and the first team.

Ultimately what Cross offers is the ability to make a play, and at a time in the club’s history where the first team squad is going through a belt tightening process and a huge overhaul of players, having someone with a bit of x factor who can put bums on seats is something that shouldn’t be immediately passed over.

There are of course hindrances to any offer of a professional contract. Firstly, the amount of money that Cardiff may be able to offer the winger is potentially not enough to entice him back to the professional level. I’m sure the Bridgend native will be keen to make a return to the top, but it may well be that playing semi-professionally and working around that is a better financial option.

The other hindrance is that back three is not a position of particular weakness for the first team with the likes of Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Owen Lane, Aled Summerhill and Theo Cabango on the books.

However, there is a major lack of bodies at centre, so if Adams, Lane and/or Summerhill are set to be seen as midfielders then adding Cross to the squad will be needed. Further to that, the likelihood is that Adams and Williams could be leaving the club in the summer of 2024, if not sooner, and with no wingers currently at senior Academy level there is some succession planning to be done.

Whatever transpires over the next few months though, Dewi Cross has been a revelation for the Rags and undoubtedly ranks as the top winger in the Premiership this season. Here’s hoping for at least one more try in order to fire the Blue and Blacks to the League and Cup double on Sunday!

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