Preview: Cardiff v Bristol

The second, and last, game of Cardiff’s pre-season campaign takes place at the Arms Park on Saturday when Danny Wilson’s men welcome his former side of Bristol over the Severn Bridge. After last week’s disappointing loss away to Newport the players will certainly look to finish pre-season on a high.

To ensure that is the case there’ll need to be a number of changes to the playing style. Firstly, the team will have to shake the habit of last season and really start the game well. We cannot afford to be chasing matches and relying on second half comebacks as we did last week at Newport if we expect to be challenging for the Pro12 play-offs.

Only some late tries, including one from Josh Navidi, made last week respectable

Competing at the breakdown will have to improve after just one turnover in the ruck last week, while defensive line speed and width must be better. At the set piece the defensive maul still looks extremely fragile, while consistency at the lineout off our own ball is needed.

Finally in attack it took until Steve Shingler’s impact around 10 minutes after at half-time to really inject any attacking flair. That was our real positive aspect from last season but it was sadly lacking in the pre-season opener. Of course there’s some rust to shake off and hopefully the quick hands and fast movement of 2015/16 return sooner rather than later.

Steve Shingler was a game changer at Rodney Parade

Of course while our performance will need to increase the quality of opponent will do the same as Bristol arrive in Wales ahead of their first Premiership campaign since 2008/09. The West Country side will be confident after winning the Championship play-offs at the fifth time of asking and have recruited well over the summer with new signings Will Hurrell, Soane Tonga’uiha, Jordan Crane and Jon Fisher set to feature at CAP.

They have international experience in Tom Varndell, Pat Lam and Cardiff old boy Gavin Henson, while Rhodri and Jordan Williams are well known in the Welsh club game. It is set to be a fast, attacking game with both sides known for their high scoring last season and hopefully we get a repeat of last year’s eight try pre-season Classic, with Cardiff winning 26-31 at Ashton Gate.

Bristol Rugby finally won the Championship last season

Danny Wilson meanwhile has welcomed plenty of international experience back of his own with Cam Dolan, Ellis Jenkins, Rey Lee-Lo, Cory Allen, Alex Cuthbert and Tom James all starting alongside new boy Matthew Morgan facing his old side. Debuts are also in store for Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill, George Earle and Nick Williams. Steve Shingler and Tomos Williams start at half-back while Fa’ao Filise is in at tight head with only McAuley Cook retaining his place in the starting XV.

On the bench there could be first outings of the season for Kris Dacey, Dillon Lewis and Tavis Knoyle as Wilson tries to give each squad member some game time ahead of the Pro12 opener against Edinburgh in two weeks. Gethin Jenkins, Josh Turnbull and Lloyd Williams miss out due to slight injuries picked with Wales, while Sam Warburton and Gareth Anscombe are not match fit having only had two weeks training.

Cardiff team vs Bristol: 15 Matthew Morgan; 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee Lo, 11 Tom James; 10 Steve Shingler, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Rhys Gill, 2 Kirby Myhill, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 4 George Earle, 5 Cam Dolan, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Ellis Jenkins (capt), 8 Nick Williams.

Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Garyn Smith, 24 Harri Millard, 25 Aled Summershill, 26 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 27 James Sheekey, 28 Dan Fish, 29 Blaine Scully.

Nick Williams makes his debut alongside a returning Rey Lee-Lo for Cardiff



This will be the first of three Severnside derbies this season with both sides drawn in the same Challenge Cup pool, and Cardiff hold the advantage overall after two victories in the 2007/08 Heineken Cup. 34-18 and 0-17 scorelines thanks to tries from Maama Molitika, Martyn Williams, Gareth Thomas and Jamie Robinson, as well as Ben Blair’s boot, saw us do the double.

A win would be a psychological boost ahead of the season and the Challenge Cup encounters with Bristol but really I’d be happy with an improved performance after last week’s loss. A chance to put a marker down with some exciting attacking rugby on our plastic pitch and to see the new signings blend into the team. Come on Cardiff!!

Cardiff v Bristol

Saturday 20th August

Cardiff Arms Park

Kick-off – 15:00

Tickets available here

Double header with Cardiff RFC v Taunton – 12:00

Preview: Newport v Cardiff

Exactly 97 days after the 2015/16 season ended with a win in Edinburgh rugby has returned for the brand new year, and I’m more excited than ever! We begin the rigamoral of pre-season with a not exactly exotic trip to the shanty town of Newport and the delights of Dave Parade to take on our closest neighbours.

Danny Wilson has named an experimental side, lacking in internationals but made up for with interesting new partnerships. Only 11 of the 23 that travelled to Scotland in May are included with 15 players drafted into an extended pre-season squad. In that just one player, James Sheekey, will make his debut with Harri Millard set for his first start. Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Steven Shingler, Terri Gee and Rhun Williams could all debut from the bench.

Wales U20 star Rhun Williams could make a debut

Millard’s arrival sees Garyn Smith step inside to the 12 jersey for the first time at first-team level, while Blaine Scully gets a chance to impress from the wing. Lewis Jones and Jarrod Evans form an untested half-back pairing in an inexperienced three-quarter line. Up front the return of Salesi Ma’afu after a full pre-season is something to keep an eye on, while the familiar sights of second row pairing James Down and Jarrad Hoeata, and Macauley Cook with Josh Navidi at flanker, are in place to marshall young Sheekey at 8.

The expectation would be that Corey Domachowski, Ethan Lewis and Scott Andrews will form the front row for much, if not all, of the second half with the same story for Tomos Williams and Steve Shingler at half-back. Terri Gee, Rhun Williams, Cory Allen and Seb Davies will slot in at wing, full-back, centre and lock respectively, while Shane Lewis-Hughes and Cam Dolan can take the spare second row spot or move into the back row.

Cory Allen could return to Cardiff action for the first time since February

As ever with pre-season friendlies this amount of substitutes will no doubt affect the game’s flow and I’m sure the second half in particular will suffer, however everyone needs game time. You may ask ‘why not have more pre-season games?’, but with the season only ending in late June for the internationals and the risk of injury a big one, two games to get everyone some match sharpness is the generally accepted number across Northern Hemisphere club rugby.

There is still a balancing act between fitness and performance though, as pre-season may be more about game time but should not be forgotten as a dress rehearsal for the imminent season and a trial for starting places. After such a fantastic second half of last season that form certainly needs to be carried into September via pre-season.

A psychological boost is there for the taking after doing the double over Newport last season, a win on Friday night will again reduce the role that Rodney Parade plays in the away derby game. What we as fans, and I’m sure the coaches are looking for too, is players working hard to put themselves forward for selection in September, as well as functioning within the team. The result will come as a result of that, but it’s not the be all and end all.

So ahead of the first game of pre-season there’s much to look forward to, and a can’t wait for proper 15-a-side rugby to return. Come on Cardiff!!

Cardiff team v Newport: 15 Dan Fish; 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Harri Millard, 12 Garyn Smith, 11 Aled Summerhill;10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lewis Jones; 1 Brad Thyer, 2 Matthew Rees (capt), 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 James Down, 6 Macauley Cook, 7 Josh Navidi, 8 James Sheekey.


Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Cam Dolan, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Cory Allen, 24 Teri Gee, 25 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 26 Rhun Williams.

Kick-off: 19:30 at Rodney Parade, Newport

Tickets available here

Cardiff Blues Supporter’s Club travel available here

Cardiff Premiership 7s Final Preview

After a thrilling last-minute victory over Newport in the final game of the Welsh Leg, Cardiff head to Coventry on Sunday to contest the Final of the Singha Premiership 7s at the Ricoh Arena, home of Wasps Rugby.

Cardiff Blues Premiership 7s Welsh Leg Report:  https://cardiffbluesblog.com/2016/07/24/cardiff-premiership-7s-report/

Head Coach Richard Hodges has made five changes to the squad, four of which have been enforced upon him. Dane Blacker, Ben Thomas, Ben Jones and Jim Botham have all been called up to Wales U18’s tour of South Africa, while Geraint Walsh has not been selected likely due to the fact that Pontypridd RFC’s pre-season starts six days later.

In their places come Morgan Sieniawski, Ceri Young, Ethan Davies, Jonny Lewis and Aron Wyn Evans. You may not have heard of most, or all, of these players likely as only Sieniawski is a Cardiff contracted player and he is a tier 2 academy player while the others are all invitational players and have been profiled below.

Dane Blacker 7s
Dane Blacker is one of the players off to South Africa

 

In terms of opponents we have been drawn against the runners-up in the Northern group, Sale Sharks. The Manchester side went out at the Cup quarter-final last year to eventual winners Newport, going on to lose to Exeter in the Plate final. Despite qualifying four times for the final stage they have never made the Cup final.

During this year’s group stage they started with a tough 12-31 loss to Newcastle, but bounced back brilliantly to hammer Leicester and Worcester by scores of 55-7 and 31-0, respectively. The undoubted star of the show was a new young signing from the Tigers, Paolo Odogwu. The XVs winger scored eight tries on the night and will really have to be stopped if we want to progress in the Cup.

Paolo Odogwu Sale
Paolo Odogwu will be the danger man for Sale

 

Sale’s squad is made up entirely of young players, but crucially players that are contracted to the club even if they do only play for the A side. Of course the willingness of a young player to impress and the bond of a team that plays together are strengths that the Sharks side will possess, however the Cardiff team has an abundance of sevens experience to it.

Fans may remember the last time we qualified for the final two years ago that we played the runner-up of the Northern group on that occasion as well, Leicester. Beating them 19-14 we then lost to Gloucester in the semi-final 14-24 as the West Country side went on to win the tournament.

Only Garyn Smith, Dan Fish and Tomos Williams remain Cardiff players from that squad, although Owen Jenkins and Ben Roach will again represent us, as the competition has not been the stepping stone to senior XV rugby it was hoped to be. As 7s has drifted ever further from XVs the only advantage of remaining in the tournament is monetary and a foot in the door with the English teams.

Dan Fish 7s
Dan Fish in 7s action back in 2014

 

Depending on the outcome of our game with Sale we will go on the play the winners or losers of Exeter v Northampton, with Ospreys, Newcastle, Harlequins and Wasps forming the other half of the draw.

Here is the 2016 Premiership 7s Final squad as selected by Richard Hodges, Paul John and Billy Millard;

Adam Thomas (c) – Made 24 Cardiff appearances since 2014 before being released at the end of last season. The centre/full-back had spent all his career at Pontypridd apart from a year in Southland before that. Another former Wales 7s captain and still involved at 29. Started all three games in the group stages, scoring one excellent try vs Ospreys.

Ben Roach – Many of us thought the flanker would get a chance in the Cardiff Blues XVs squad at some point, but has instead chosen to take a Wales 7s central contract. The 22 year old only made five substitute LV Cup appearances alongside some Cardiff A games. Two group stage starts and a substitute appearance, plus run-in try last time out.

Owen Jenkins – Another player released by Cardiff last season after eight appearances since graduating from the academy. Spent most of his time on the wing at allocated club Pontypridd in recent years. The 23 year old has now taken a full-time Wales 7s contract. An eventful night in the group stages as three starts saw three tries and two yellow cards.

Declan Williams – Treorchy product Williams is another fly-half but one who is equally comfortable at centre and full-back. Also a Coleg Y Cymoedd player the 18 year old has Wales U18 honours and will be one to watch with the junior Cardiff squads. Appeared off the bench in all three group stage games, bagging a conversion against each Ospreys and Llanelli.

Joe Tomlinson – Started his rugby career in the Cardiff Blues academy before moving on to Cardiff RFC via Cardiff Metropolitan University. Has made 38 Rags appearances in two years, and also turned out for Cardiff A last season. Aged 23, a hooker in XVs rugby. Featured sparsely in the group stages but scored a very important try vs Newport.

Luke Crocker – The former Wales 7s captain has signed for Cardiff RFC this summer after spending last season with Ebbw Vale. At 26 he has also played for Beddau, Pontypridd and Newport A at flanker. Still involved with the national 7s over the last few months. Made a big impact off the bench vs Ospreys and Llanelli before starting against Newport in the group stages.

James Beal – Not much is known about the new Cardiff RFC signing. Spent many years at Cardiff Metroplitan University scoring plenty of tries from the wing in the Championship and captaining the students. Has recently represented Great Britain Universities at 7s. Was impressive in the group stages despite not scoring a try in three starts. Some decent line breaks and a good passer of the ball, could be one to watch.

Morgan Sieniawski – Onto the new boys and starting with the only Cardiff contracted player. A XVs flanker by trade who has senior rugby experience with Pontypridd. The 19 year-old spent the summer with the Wales U20s at the Junior World Championship.

Ceri Young – The versatile back has been at Cardiff RFC for two years now, making 39 appearances and scoring seven tries. A Newport academy graduate he has played for a few teams including rugby league stints before settling in blue and black. Won player of the tournament and last week’s Cardiff and District rugby 7s competition.

Ethan Davies – The Cross Keys fly-half/full-back is mainly associated with Newport. He has played for Newport A in the British and Irish Cup and even played for them in the group stages two weeks ago, getting yellow carded against Cardiff to help us qualify for the final! At 22 years old he has spent most of his career travelling with Wales 7s to date.

Jonny Lewis – The Llanelli academy graduate played for Llanelli RFC and Llanelli 7s before moving to Cross Keys and also representing Newport two weeks ago. Like Davies he was yellow carded in the Cardiff for a nasty swinging forearm on Jenkins and was just generally a bit of a doughnut throughout the game. Let’s hope he isn’t for us!

Aron Wyn Evans – I couldn’t find a huge amount on the 22 year old XVs winger, other than I believe he has recently played for Llandovery in the Welsh Premiership, and played for the hapless Llanelli side in the group stages. Fingers crossed he is part of a better team on Sunday.

So once again the newly named by myself Cardiff Blues Barbarians Select Sevens squad will take to the field and look to add some more silverware into the cabinet, mainly just to rub it in to Newport that we are now the holders. Come on (sort of) Cardiff!!

Cardiff 7s 2016 winners
Hopefully we’ll see more of this!

 

Singha Premiership 7s Final Fixtures

Sunday 7th August

Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Live on BT Sport

Quarter Final 1 – Cardiff Blues v Sale Sharks – 14:00
Quarter Final 2 – Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints – 14:25
Quarter Final 3 – Harlequins v Wasps – 14:50
Quarter Final 4 – Newcastle Falcons v Ospreys – 15:15

Plate Semi-Final 1 – 15:40                                                                                                                         Cup Semi-Final 1 – 16:05                                                                                                                   Plate Semi-Final 2 – 16:30                                                                                                                 Cup Semi-Final 2 – 16:55                                                                                                           Women’s Premiership Sevens Final – 17:20                                                                              Plate Final – 17:45                                                                                                                                Cup Final – 18:10

Tickets on sale here

Cardiff Blues Supporter’s Club trip details here

 

 

Cardiff Premiership 7s Preview

The now traditional season curtain raiser, Singha Premiership 7s, returns for it’s third instalment to kick start 2016/17. Two and a half months after the last campaign finished we edge a little closer to the Pro12 starting again as all four Welsh professional clubs gather at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday night.

Cardiff have good pedigree in this still fairly new tournament having won the inaugural Welsh leg back in 2014. Wins against Ospreys and Llanelli before a draw with Newport saw us top the group and head to Twickenham Stoop for the Grand Final. Victory over Leicester sent us to the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Gloucester.

Cardiff 7s 2014.jpg
The winning Cardiff 7s team of the 2014 Premiership 7s Welsh leg

 

Things took a downturn last year though as three losses and just one try bonus point saw us left rock bottom of the Welsh group with 14 tries conceded and a minus 42 points difference. Newport were the winners and therefore reigning champions after beating Llanelli with just a three point better difference and ended up winning the whole thing.

2015 Premiership 7s Welsh Leg Report:  https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/premiership-7s-cardiff-blues-review/

The difference last year was that Cardiff were left behind by Newport certainly, and to an extent Ospreys and Llanelli, in squad selection. Paul John named a side of 11 Cardiff Blues contracted players plus Pontypridd, now Merthyr, centre Gavin Dacey who doesn’t even have particular 7s pedigree. On the other hand the others all named squads made up of 7s specialists with in some cases seriously ropey links to the clubs they were representing.

For this reason 2016 coach Richard Hodges has rung the changes. Over the past two squads only Gavin Dacey has been a non-Cardiff Blues contracted player but this year we have seven. There are justifiable links to each player though with Owen Jenkins, Adam Thomas, Ben Roach and Geraint Walsh all former Cardiff employees, while Joe Tomlinson, Luke Crocker and James Beal are Cardiff RFC players.

Ben Roach 7s
Ben Roach is back in a Cardiff shirt despite not being contracted to us

 

Although they do have the associations with the club I can’t help but feel that using these players undermines the competition slightly. They are excellent sevens specialists and will improve the playing quality I’m sure, as the short-sided version of rugby becomes ever further removed from 15-a-side, but it means the whole affair takes on a 7s Barbarians effect with players invited to play for each squad.

When you consider that Cardiff could name a full playing VII of players that aren’t actually contracted employees any win may feel somewhat hollow. I understand winning is important and I’m sure comes with a suitable financial reward, but it seems the competition becomes devalued to an extent by the hiring of sevens professionals for one night.

The rest of the squad is made up of junior members from our academy setup, as it should be for a competition like this. Although there has only been one non-Cardiff Blues contracted player featured before this season, the squads have not been packed with senior players. The last two years have been used in a very developmental role and that aspect of it is very important.

Seb Davies, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Garyn Smith, Aled Summerhill and Owen Lane have all made their first senior appearances in a Cardiff top at the Premiership 7s event, while the likes of Ben Roach, Owen Jenkins and Chris Knight have all gone on to full-time 7s careers having not quite made it in XVs.

Garyn Smith Edinburgh
Garyn Smith was first seen in a senior Cardiff shirt at the Premiership 7s

 

So with the squad being made up of non-Cardiff Blues players and inexperienced youngsters, let’s get to know the 12 selected by Richard Hodges;

Joe Tomlinson – Started his rugby career in the Cardiff Blues academy before moving on to Cardiff RFC via Cardiff Metropolitan University. Has made 38 Rags appearances in two years, and also turned out for Cardiff A last season. Aged 23, a hooker in XVs rugby.

Ben Roach – Many of us thought the flanker would get a chance in the Cardiff Blues XVs squad at some point, but has instead chosen to take a Wales 7s central contract. The 22 year old only made five substitute LV Cup appearances alongside some Cardiff A games.

Luke Crocker – The former Wales 7s captain has signed for Cardiff RFC this summer after spending last season with Ebbw Vale. At 26 he has also played for Beddau, Pontypridd and Newport A at flanker. Still involved with the national 7s over the last few months.

Adam Thomas – Made 24 Cardiff appearances since 2014 before being released at the end of last season. The centre/full-back had spent all his career at Pontypridd apart from a year in Southland before that. Another former Wales 7s captain and still involved at 29.

Geraint Walsh – Released back to Pontypridd during last season after not featuring for Cardiff under Danny Wilson. The full-back made nine appearances in 2014/15 having also played for Llantwit Fardre, Llanharan and Western Pioneers of Auckland. Aged 28.

James Beal – Not much is known about the new Cardiff RFC signing. Spent many years at Cardiff Metroplitan University scoring plenty of tries from the wing in the Championship and captaining the students. Has recently represented Great Britain Universities at 7s.

Owen Jenkins – Another player released by Cardiff last season after eight appearances since graduating from the academy. Spent most of his time on the wing at allocated club Pontypridd in recent years. The 23 year old has now taken a full-time Wales 7s contract.

Cardiff Wales 7s
Ben Roach (left), Adam Thomas (centre left) and Owen Jenkins (right) will all feature for Cardiff despite being Wales 7s contracted

 

Jim Botham – Onto the academy players and former Cardiff winger Liam’s son. Born and raised in Yorkshire he has moved down to Cardiff to join the youth setup. 18 years old and already a well built athletic flanker he should make a decent 7s player.

Dane Blacker – Plenty of people are very excited by scrum half Blacker who has already made a big impression at Wales U18 level, as well as featuring for Pontypridd’s first team. The 18 year old has come from the very successful Coleg Y Cymoedd side of last season.

Ben Jones – Another player who featured heavily in Wales U18s recent exploits. The 18 year old fly-half completes an exciting looking half-back pairing with Blacker who he has played with at club youth, national youth and college level. Attack minded and creative.

Declan Williams – Treorchy product Williams is another fly-half but one who is equally comfortable at centre and full-back. Also a Coleg Y Cymoedd player the 18 year old has Wales U18 honours and will be one to watch with the junior Cardiff squads.

Ben Thomas – The third academy player in the squad that is comfortable at fly-half, although more likely to make the grade as a centre. Still only 17, he has come through St Peters RFC and now studies at Cardiff and Vale College, who are coached by Dan Fish.

Declan Williams U18
Declan Williams scores for Cardiff U18s v Ospreys U18s

 

A real mix of 7s experience and raw academy talent in the 2016 Premiership 7s squad as we look to reclaim our crown and avenge last year’s poor performance. Although I do believe the ‘7s player for hire’ aspect has seriously devalued the competition, it’s still a good chance to see some of our future prospects in action. Also, who doesn’t like winning trophies? So, in the end, come on Cardiff!!

Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Fixtures

Group A
Date: 7pm, Friday 22 July
Venue: BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park

Cardiff Blues
Newport Gwent Dragons
Ospreys
Scarlets

Buy tickets here

Live on BT Sport from 19:00

19.00 – 19.20 Scarlets v Cardiff Blues
19.25 – 19.45 Ospreys v Newport Gwent Dragons
19.55 – 20.15 Ospreys v Scarlets
20.20 – 20.40 Cardiff Blues v Newport Gwent Dragons
20.50 – 21.10 Scarlets v Newport Gwent Dragons
21.15 – 21.35 Ospreys v Cardiff Blues

Series Final
Date: 2pm, Sunday 7 August
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series Final

 

 

Premiership 7s: Cardiff Blues Preview

A year on from Cardiff Blues’ victory at the inaugural Welsh leg of the Aviva Premiership Sevens, Newport, Llanelli and the Ospreys join us once again at the BT Sport Arms Park for a day of short-sided rugby.

After a pretty full on summer last year, playing sevens in this competition’s pool and final stages, the World Club Sevens Tournament at Twickenham, as well as a World 10s Tournament in Singapore and the regular 15-a-side friendlies, it’s been toned down a bit this pre-season, with just this sevens event, and potentially the final, as well as normal season warm-ups against Newport and Bristol. Whether this is linked to a change in the coaching regime, an admittance that last summer was too full on, culminating in that dreadful injury to Owen Williams, or due to the Rugby World Cup is unknown, but I for one think this pre-season schedule is much better for the team.

Cardiff Blues will be hoping for a repeat of this on Saturday

Last year the Premiership Sevens events featured mainly our current and former International Sevens players, as well as several promising youngsters who have grown up playing the shirt sided game, as the Academy players do now, and this season is much the same.

Cardiff Blues announced the squad on Tuesday in a typo-strewn article (please ignore any on mine, I’m not paid to do this!), and although Geraint Walsh is mentioned he isn’t actually in the match day 12, so the team will be made up of; Lewis Jones (c), Ben Roach, Garyn Smith, Owen Jenkins, Harry Davies, Seb Davies, Jarrod Evans, Ellis Wyn Benham, Owen Lane, Gavin Dacey, Mike Hale, Chris Knight.

Lewis Jones leads Cardiff Blues Sevens this weekend

In terms of the more regular first teamers, Lewis Jones captains the sevens team last season, taking over from Richard Smith, who makes way in a younger squad than last season. Joining him is Dan Fish, despite being in the Wales Sevens team for the Glasgow and London legs of the World Sevens Series at the end of last season, and Geraint Walsh, who has featured for the National Team over the years. As well as Fish and Walsh, Adam Thomas, Gareth Davies and Tom Isaacs have turned out for Wales Sevens during their careers, so could’ve been in the frame for a run out on Saturday. Interestingly, Jevon Groves, who signed for Cardiff last summer and featured in the Premiership Sevens finals, but only went on to make two 15-a-side appearances in the LV Cup, isn’t involved at all after being listed as only a WRU employee in the Wales Sevens squads last year, suggesting his association with Cardiff may have ended, despite still being on the squad page of the website.

Apart from Lewis Jones, a few straws have to be clutched at to name other regular first teamers, with just 25 senior appearances shared between the squad, minus Jones’ 76. In that sense, Garyn Smith is now rated as a member of the Cardiff Blues team after making three first team starts towards the end of last season, albeit impressive ones. I certainly hope to be seeing a lot more of this season, and learning off team mates with the quality of Cory Allen and Rey Lee Lo can only help him. The last ‘first-teamer’ isn’t even a Cardiff first teamer, with Pontypridd vice captain Gavin Dacey called into the squad, for reasons I’m not completely sure. I mean, we have plenty of Wales Sevens internationals, Richard Smith, Dan Fish and Adam Thomas to name three, so what exactly is the point of giving game time to a non-contracted player? Unless we’re planning on signing him, which would be a grave error considering the success we’ve had with our last few Pontypridd players.

  

Garyn Smith made an impact at the end of last season
 

So, with not many first teamers on show, it gives an opportunity for plenty of younger players to showcase their skills. Ellis Wyn Benham, Ben Roach, Owen Jenkins and Seb Davies all return again this year to the Sevens side, with each but Benham having gone on to play for the senior side last season. Harry Davies also features in the squad for the group stages, having only played at Twickenham Stoop in the 2014 final. 
As well as the returning young players, there’s also a number of new faces ready to appear in a blue shirt for the first time, with Jarrod Evans, Chris Knight, Owen Lane and Mike Hale set to make their Arms Park bows. Out of them, Jarrod Evans comes the most highly rated after strong performances for Pontypridd and Wales U20 last season, meanwhile Mike Hale had a strong second season of 2014/15 in blue and black. A word for Owen Lane as well, the second tier academy centre standing at 6ft tall who will be just 17 when he plays for Cardiff on Saturday. All will be hoping to make an impact ahead of the new season, and we can certainly expect to see them turning out for Cardiff A if they don’t quite make the senior team. 

Ben Roach is amongst a group of youngsters looking for a chance to impress

All in all a very young team, with an average age of just 21 including the 30 year old Dacey, but a very experienced sevens team nonetheless and some exciting young players on show. An excellent day out at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, and it’s good to see rugby back after the summer. A good chance for Cardiff Blues to kick start our season and get some early silverware in the cabinet.