Cardiff Blues summer international preview

So, another season has come and gone, and we find ourselves once again counting down to the start of another campaign filled with hopes and dreams just waiting to be crushed.

Before we enter the wilderness of the off-season though, there is a packed programme of summer international rugby to come, where the Junior World Championships and annual national team summer tests are joined by the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

Despite some dreadful form there is still plenty of Cardiff Blues representation around the globe over the next month, so let’s find out who is heading where.

B&I Lions

It was a massively proud moment for the club when Sam Warburton was selected to captain the historic touring side, becoming only the second man to receive that honour twice.

It continues a long tradition of Cardiff Rugby providing players to the Lions, and cements Sam’s place on the list of world rugby greats.

Unfortunately only Gethin Jenkins was in with a shout of joining Sam from the Arms Park but he was not selected, and injury has since ended hopes of being called up as an injury replacement, but there’s no doubt that Warburton will represent the Blues superbly while facing the almighty challenge of touring New Zealand.

June 3 – New Zealand Provincial Barbarians v British & Irish Lions

June 7 – Auckland Blues v British & Irish Lions

June 10 – Crusaders v British & Irish Lions

June 13 – Highlanders v British & Irish Lions

June 17 – Maori All Blacks v British & Irish Lions

June 20 – Chiefs v British & Irish Lions

June 24 – British & Irish Lions v New Zealand – 1st Test match

June 27 – Hurricanes v British & Irish Lions

July 1 – British & Irish Lions v New Zealand – 2nd Test Match

July 8 – British & Irish Lions v British & Irish Lions – 3rd Test Match

*All games kick-off at 8:35am and are broadcast live on Sky Sports

Sam Warburton Lions
Sam Warburton will be looking to make amends after injury ended his last tour

Team Wales

While the Lions are in New Zealand what’s left of the Welsh management and player setup will be heading to the Southern Hemisphere too, as they prepare for a two-test series against Samoa and Tonga, with a charity training match against Rygbi Gogledd Cymru set-up beforehand.

There will be Cardiff Blues representation on the coaching staff, as attack coach Matt Sherratt goes on tour, but he won’t be joined by Danny Wilson, who admirably pulled out of joining the Wales management team to put Cardiff Blues before his personal aspirations.

In terms of the playing squad there is a sizeable Cardiff contingent, with Kris Dacey, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi, Gareth Anscombe, Cory Allen and Alex Cuthbert being rewarded for fine seasons, while Tomos Williams and Seb Davies getting the opportunity to win their first caps.

Dillon Lewis has been training with the Wales squad as he returns to fitness, but has not been named in the official touring party, while Rhun Williams was called up before having to pull out due to an ankle injury suffered against Stade Francais. Bother of their times will come to pull on the red jersey in the future though, there’s no doubt about it.

RGC 1404 v Wales (training match) – Friday 2nd June – 19:00 – live on S4C

Tonga v Wales – Friday 16th June – 06:30 – live on BBC Wales

Samoa v Wales – Friday 23rd June – 07:30 – TV tbc

Cuthbert Wales.jpg
Alex Cuthbert is back in Wales’ red

Samoa 

Once again Rey Lee-Lo has been called up to represent his country, and it is a big summer for Manu Samoa, who can confirm qualification for the 2019 World Cup.

Firstly they face test matches against Wales and New Zealand, before heading into this summer’s Pacific Nations Cup.

The RWC qualification for the South Sea Islands sees the top two sides from the combined 2016 and 2017 PNC qualify automatically, with third place going into a repechage.

Samoa currently sit three points ahead of Tonga in second place, which would see them join England, France and Argentina, as well as the best Americas side, but four points behind Fiji who will enter Australia, Wales, Georgia and the second American sides’ group.

Friday 16th June – New Zealand v Wales

Friday 23rd June – Samoa v Wales

Saturday 1st July – Tonga v Samoa

Saturday 15th July – Samoa v Fiji

Rey Lee-Lo Samoa
Rey Lee-Lo will represent Samoa once again

Georgia

After signing a new contract Anton Peikrishvili has headed out to join his Georgian team-mates in Tblisi before the Lelos go on tour to the Americas this summer

Saturday 10th June – Canada v Georgia

Saturday 17th June – USA v Georgia

Saturday 24th June – Argentina v Georgia

Anton Peikrishvili Georgia
Anton Peikrishvili is back in the Georgia squad

USA

A busy summer for the USA Eagles is coming up, but unfortunately they will have to make do without co-captain Blaine Scully, who has has been ruled out of playing thanks to the elbow injury picked up against Ulster. Captain America will still be in camp though, running water for the boys in another example of his team spirit.

Club team-mate, and soon to be departing, Cam Dolan is included in the squad though as the United States host tourists Georgia and Ireland before facing a two-legged play-off against Canada for a 2019 World Cup spot.

The winners will go into England, France and Argentina’s group with the runner up from the Pacific Nations Cup, while the loser will play-off against Uruguay next year for the spot in Australia, Wales, Georgia and the PNC winners’ group.

Saturday 10th June – USA v Ireland

Saturday 17th June – USA v Georgia

Saturday 24th June – Canada v USA

Saturday 1st July – USA v Canada

Cam Dolan USA
Cam Dolan is in Eagles action this summer

Wales U20

The 2017 Junior World Championships will be hosted in Georgia this summer, with Cardiff Blues academy manager Richard Hodges again acting as defence coach, while 12 academy youngsters are called up to represent their country.

Tom Mably, Rhys Carre, Eddie Drake, Kieron Assiratti, Callum Bradbury, Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Aled Ward, Dane Blacker, Ben Jones and Cameron Lewis, Owen Lane are all involved, further proof of the effectiveness that the Cardiff Blues development pathway has.

Wednesday 31st May – Wales U20 v Australia U20

Sunday 4th June – England U20 v Wales U20

Thursday 8th June – Wales U20 v Samoa U20

*All games live on S4C

Rhys Carre Wales 20
Rhys Carre will lead the Cardiff Blues charge for Wales U20s

Good luck to all Cardiff Blues players in action over the next six weeks, and check back here after it’s all done and dusted for a full report on our players involvements with their national sides before they can put their feet up ahead of pre-season.

 

 

 

 

Summer Internationals: Cardiff Review

After a long season of tough international and club rugby, dating back to August 2015 for a large number of players, it was time for the always loved Summer international tours where Northern Hemisphere sides head down under and prove how poor they really are by losing to the Rugby Championship superpowers. I might be a bit cynical about them, I don’t know if you can tell.

Wales

A grand total of seven Cardiff Blues players were named in the Wales squad to take on the toughest task in world rugby, a tour of New Zealand. Captain Sam Warburton was joined by our captain Gethin Jenkins and Kristian Dacey, Josh Turnbull, Lloyd Williams, Gareth Anscombe and Tom James. Soon to join full-back Matthew Morgan was also among the travelling party. Alex Cuthbert and Cory Allen missed out through injury, while Ellis Jenkins and Rhys Patchell were left at home.

Before the squad left for NZ they were forced to play a friendly against England at Twickenham, for money making purposes ahead of any rugby reason. An experimental XV saw no Cardiff players in the starting side, although Kris Dacey, Gethin Jenkins, Josh Turnbull, Lloyd Williams and Gareth Anscombe all appeared off the bench. In a 27-13 loss nobody covered themselves in any glory. The only Cardiff positive was an injury to Dan Lydiate saw Ellis Jenkins called up.

Ellis was straight onto the bench for the first test two weeks later at Eden Park, making his debut in the 72nd minute replacing Warburton. Gethin Jenkins started for the first time internationally since the previous Autumn and Gareth Anscombe had 15 minutes late in the game as Wales went down 39-21 in a brave but ultimately well-beaten fashion.

Ellis Jenkins Wales
Eliis Jenkins won his first Wales cap in the first test

 

Bizarrely Gatland’s men were back in action four days later when they played Super Rugby side Chiefs in Waikato, the first tour match for a good few years. Matthew Morgan, Josh Turnbull and Tom James all got a full 80 under their belts, while Sam Warburton also played for just over a half as a late replacement for Ellis Jenkins who picked up a slight knock. Unfortunately the Wales side was battered 40-7 by the club side, the only upside being Kris Dacey’s try scoring substitute appearance.

Following this bad performance there was some disappointing injury news for Lloyd Williams and Gareth Anscombe who both missed the Chiefs game through injuries that would keep them out of the rest of the tour. As a result of this Llanelli bound Rhys Patchell was called up after a fine Cardiff season and started at full-back, the very position he’s leaving Cardiff to avoid, in the second test.

Gethin Jenkins Wales
Gethin Jenkins returned to the Wales XV in New Zealand

 

Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins were also in the XV, while Ellis Jenkins recovered from his injury to make a five minute cameo. Unfortunately none of them could stop a strong NZ side taking the series with a 36-22 win in Wellington, before rounding off the Summer tour with a 46-6 hammering in Dunedin, Gethin Jenkins sitting that one out with a knock.

All round disappointing for the Wales team, but on a Cardiff note there were no serious injuries and no disgraced players, with Ellis Jenkins finally getting international recognition a great moment. Unfortunately the poor performance of the senior team had rubbed off on the U20 boys at the Junior World Championship in Manchester.

Sam Warburton Wales
Captain Sam Warburton after a frustrating NZ tour

 

Wales U20

Overall 10 Cardiff Blues youngsters were selected in the squad with Corey Domachoswki, Dillon Lewis, Jarrod Evans and Harri Millard all having made their senior debuts this season, while Kieron Assirratti, Liam Belcher, Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Morgan Sieniawski had successful Welsh Premiership campaigns. RGC1404 hot prospect Rhun Williams was selected ahead of his move to CAP for the coming season.

Wales U20 players
The Cardiff Wales U20 contingent, minus Rhun Williams

 

Domachowski, Lewis, Lewis-Hughes, Millard and Williams were all selected to start for the reigning U20 Six Nations Champions, while Liam Belcher and Jarrod Evans would make appearances off the bench as the side went down 25-26 to Ireland in their opening game. It was all change for game two as only Lewis-Hughes and Williams kept their places, Belcher and Evans this time starting along with Davies. Domachowski, Lewis and Sieniawski were all substitutes for the 10-9 narrow win over Georgia.

For the final group game against New Zealand U20s there was a recall for Domachowski, Lewis and Millard alongside the retained Lewis-Hughes, Davies and Williams. Belcher, Sieniawski and Evans were left with bench duties and the Baby Blacks were pushed all the way in a 18-17 loss. Unfortunately this meant we would again face NZ in the next round.

Rhun Williams Wales U20
Rhun Williams takes on the Baby Blacks

 

Williams and Millard were both ruled out through injury but there was a big piece of news as an all-Cardiff tight-five of Domachowski, Belcher, Lewis, Davies and Lewis-Hughes started in a bright side for us. There was nothing they could do on this day though as New Zealand absolutely blew Wales away in a 71-12 win. Evans and Sieniawski came off the bench that day but started along with six other Cardiff players against Scotland in the seventh place-play off, while Assiratti and Belcher came off the bench for a full set.

Lewis and Lewis-Hughes both scored tries, as did Evans along with five conversions, in a 42-19 win to cap off a disappointing performance. Many of the Cardiff players headed off on holidays with their U20 days behind them and a big future ahead of them in the senior set up at CAP though. Exciting times are coming!

Dillon Wales U20
Dillon Lewis earned plenty of plaudits throughout the tournament

 

Samoa

Elsewhere over the summer Rey Lee-Lo has been in international action in the Pacific Nations Cup. The centre played 240 minutes of rugby over a Georgian friendly and two competitive games with Fiji and Tonga as his Samoan side finished runners-up. Playing twice at 13 and once at 12 he showed his versatility but was not able to trouble the scoresheet in any games. He does return injury free though after a strong debut season in Cardiff.

Rey Lee Lo Samoa
Rey Lee-Lo had a successful summer with Samoa

 

USA

Meanwhile over the pond the Americans played two international matches against Italy in San Jose and Russia in Sacramento. Blaine Scully and Cam Dolan both played a full 80 minutes in both matches as their side lost 20-24 to the Italians before a 25-0 win over the Russians. Dolan did manage to pick up a yellow card from number 8 in the first game, while Blaine Scully captained the side in the second game from the left wing. More good injury free news for our American contingent as they look to build on solid starts to their Cardiff careers.

Blaine Scully USA
Blaine Scully captained the USA v Russia

 

Great Britain 7s

In an abnormal addition to the Cardiff Blues international roundup this summer there is also some interest in the short-sided game with Cory Allen selected in the wider Team GB training squad for the Olympic Games. As a form of trial there were two GB sides entered in the European 7s Grand Prix circuit with Allen representing the Royals.

Out in Moscow on the first stop he was part of the plate winning squad, before winning the Cup in Exeter, scoring one try at each tournament. Unfortunately he picked up a knock in the Exeter final and was forced to sit out the last leg before Rio where the two GB sides met each other in the final. This ultimately went against the Wales centre and he was left out of the travelling party.

Cory Allen GB
Cory Allen and the GB Royals celebrating winning the Exeter Cup

 

So the summer of international rugby has come to an end and we can now look to the Premiership 7s this week and the pre-season friendlies next month before the Pro12 kicks off in September. No major injuries picked up during the international window is a very positive thing and hopefully the players will be back in training in time for the early stages of the 2016/17 season. Come on Cardiff!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Internationals: Cardiff Preview

With the 2015/16 season done and dusted for the Cardiff Blues the attention of us fans now turns to next season and exciting times to come. However for others there is the matter of a Summer International window and a few weeks of rugby during June to just wear the players out even more. Of course there’s a fair bit of representation from the club so let’s go through who’s off to where….

Team Wales

We’ll start at home with Warren Gatland’s men heading off to the biggest test in World Rugby, a tour of New Zealand. There will be three matches against the All Blacks as well as a tour match against Super Rugby’s Chiefs, all preceded by a money making exercise against England at Twickenham.

With the squad Old Gatland has truly outdone himself by picking his usual favourites, with no uncapped or any in form players included who have been touted over the past few weeks. In Cardiff terms this means Ellis Jenkins is the main casualty after a fantastic season, particularly after returning from injury in January. He has been left out along with James Davies of Llanelli and former Cardiff youngster Thomas Young, now at Wasps, with only one recognised number seven in the squad.

Ellis Jenkins Treviso
Ellis Jenkins is desperately unlucky to miss out on the New Zealand tour

 

The seven is of course Sam Warburton who will captain the side out in New Zealand and he’s joined by fellow stalwart Gethin Jenkins in the ‘expected’ category. Meanwhile Josh Turnbull  is rewarded for a fantastic season and I really hope he gets a chance to shine while on tour. Kristian Dacey on the other hand was a slightly surprise selection in my book as I thought his lack of game time might count against him, but Gatland’s has chosen to go with experience over Newport’s Elliott Dee. Just hope for both Dacey and Turnbull’s sakes that there is minimal amounts of time spent tackle-bag holding.

Into the backs and there are three names that anyone would struggle to leave out from Cardiff in Lloyd Williams, Gareth Anscombe and Tom James. Having said that though none of those are shoe-ins at all for the Test matchday 23 and I do think that’s a shame. These views may be through rose-tinted glasses but I honestly believe Lloyd Williams is the second best Welsh scrum-half, behind Rhys Webb and ahead of Gareth Davies. Tom James also deserves a proper chance to play after being dropped for the made up reason of ‘not being match sharp’ during the Six Nations. Eleven tries this season says it all.

Tom James Newport
Tom James top scored for Cardiff this season

 

Finally I think Gareth Anscombe is the second best Welsh fly-half behind Dan Biggar and ahead of Rhys Priestland, and he needs to be playing internationally at stand-off as his future is not at full-back. One good thing I hope comes out of the tour whoever is picked though is that Anscombe and future Cardiff player Matthew Morgan, also selected for Wales, form a good relationship over the summer so that their 10/15 partnership can hit the ground running in September at the Arms Park.

Samoa

Away from Wales and into the South Sea Islands next as centre Rey Lee-Lo is selected by Samoa for their friendly against Georgia before the Pacific Nations Cup 2016 against Fiji and Tonga. Despite a slow start in Cardiff after joining late following the World Cup he has settled in fantastically after Christmas and really flourished in the 12 jersey, forming an excellent partnership with Anscombe. I’m sure he will play a big part in Manu Samoa’s summer campaign and I look forward to following it. Go well Rey!

Rey Lee Lo Edinburgh
Rey Lee-Lo has become a key part of the Cardiff side

 

Wales U20

Back home to a team spending the summer a bit closer to Wales but by no means having a less important International window. The Wales U20 side, fresh from winning the Grand Slam in March will head to the North of England for this year’s Junior World Championship. In the squad are nine current and one future Cardiff Blues youngsters as Jason Strange has selected Corey Domachowski, Kieron Assirratti, Liam Belcher, Dillon Lewis, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Seb Davies, Morgan Sieniawski, Jarrod Evans, Harri Millard and Rhun Williams.

What is most impressive is that you can name an entire Cardiff tight five from that list, as well as Rhun Williams, arriving from RGC 1404 after the tournament, earned plenty of plaudits for his performances at full-back during the U20 Six Nations. As Danny Wilson seems prepared to give these guys a chance in the senior squad there is plenty for them to play for in June and if they live up to their potential it will be an exciting time for Wales and Cardiff.

IMG_0821-0
Jarrod Evans is selected by Wales U20 before coming back to be second choice Cardiff fly-half

 

Great Britain Sevens

A bit of a special event this summer sees a new addition to the rugby calendar, well a new, old addition really. Rugby returns to the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 for the first time since Paris 1924, but this time it is in it’s shortened version of the game. Team GB head coach Simon Amor has selected a 25-man training squad made up of mostly full-time English and Welsh sevens players complimented by some 15s professionals, one of which happens to be our own Cory Allen.

After missing the second half of the season with a thigh injury he was not picked by Warren Gatland for the tour of New Zealand, instead being given the chance to try out for the Olympics during a seven-week training period across June and July, taking in four sevens tournaments. Should he impress enough he will head to Brazil in early August and hope to earn a British medal.

Allen Llanelli
Cory Allen could be representing Cardiff at the Rio 2016 Olympics

 

On a selfish level I can’t see I’m thrilled Allen has been selected as I’d much prefer he spent June and July on holiday before joining Cardiff Blues pre-season in August fit and ready to go. However, he will now likely miss the start of next season but will at least have a chance to regain some serious fitness. Having said that, I can’t deny it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Cory and I wish him all the best.

While we wait to hear if Blaine Scully and Cam Dolan are selected for the USA in their summer internationals all that’s left to say is good luck to all Cardiff players out and about during June, and please don’t get injured!!