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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.