James Davies is 24 years old. He has been a Cardiff RFC fan since he was 7 years old, and has held a Cardiff Blues season ticket since the inception of regional rugby in 2003. He goes to every home match with his dad, and has been to several away games – most notably; he was at Twickenham in 2009 when the Blues smashed Gloucester in the EDF Cup final. Cracking game.
Never has the term ‘a fresh start’ been so fitting.
For the Cardiff Blues, the new season has been a long time coming. Since it was announced on the 8th May that the Welsh region were to return to their rightful home of Cardiff Arms Park, the revolving door has been in non-stop use.
405 international caps have left during the summer, including 10 Lions Test Caps. Compare this to the 9 international caps that have come in to the current squad for 2012/13 season, and it demonstrates what experience the Blues will have to be without this year.
They have a new head coach in the form of former Leeds, Scarlets and Worcester man Phil Davies. Of the seven recruits that Phil Davies has brought in, five are forwards – the other two; half backs. Last seasons’ forwards and co-head coach, Justin Burnell, has left the Blues, as Davies looks to build a robust and no-nonsense pack to compete in the RaboDirect PRRO12 and in Europe.
Despite the experience and international clout that has left, arguably only three of the 13 that have left for pastures new are a real loss. Gethin Jenkins and Casey Laulala, despite the latter not having an esteemed international career, are both word class operators and will be missed in Cardiff. Also, there is a certain Mr. Henson. Gavin Henson was release by the Blues for his antics on a flight from Glasgow in May; he has since joined London Welsh. He may not have lit the world alight during his 8 month stint in Cardiff, but he showed some touches that suggested he was on the road back. Arguably, the Blues have missed the chance of getting Welsh rugby’s underachiever back to the top of the game.
Of the other losses to the Blues; Xavier Rush, Paul Tito, Martyn Williams, Gareth Williams, Deiniol Jones have all hung up their boots after distinguished careers in their own right. Arguably, none of the players who have left for other clubs are huge losses, or have better prospects in their place.
The Blues have exciting young talent such as Wales new-boy Harry Robinson and Wales under-20 captain Macaulay Cook to fill the void left by the departing players.
Despite a raft of first class names leaving Cardiff, the Blues still have international stars in the form of Wales captain Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jamie Roberts, Lloyd Williams, and Bradley Davies, who were all central to the recent World Cup & Grand Slam heroics.
Their talismanic Kiwi Xavier Rush has retired and taken the reins as defensive coach alongside newly appointed team manager Deiniol Jones. The coming season will test the Blues young squad, but providing the Wales stars can perform at the Arms Park, there is no reason they cannot challenge for the RaboDirect PRO12 Play-Offs.
If the Blues are to have a successful season, they will need new fly half Jason Tovey to make his mark in the Welsh capital. The 23 year old came through the ranks at the Dragons, but made the move down the M4 due to his desire to win trophies and play with the best. For the sake of Blues fans, let’s hope his move was a wise decision.
Best addition to your side?
Jason Tovey. The Blues faithful have been calling out for a running 10 to take the fly half spot since Nicky Robinson left 3 seasons ago. Sam Norton-Knight was a resounding flop, whilst Dan Parks’ overactive boot never gelled well with the capital city. Ceri Sweeney has never performed consistently, and if trophies are be a constant back at the Arms Park; then Tovey is the man to deliver. The former Dragons stand-off will be hoping his performances at the Arms Park will propel him to challenge Rhys Priestland, James Hook and Dan Biggar for the Welsh 10 shirt.
Opening day prediction?
Connacht 15 – Cardiff Blues 22
Overall season prediction for your side?
Strong league run culminating with fourth place. No Play-Off wins though.
Harry Robinson to form deadly back 3 unit with Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny. Harry Robinson to be top try scorer for Cardiff Blues. Robin Copeland to be starting 6 by Christmas.
Who's going to win the RaboDirect PRO12?
I run my own PR agency based in Cardiff, Compass Media Relations, and represent a number of clients’ media portfolios and advertising budgets. I regularly post about rugby and tweet via my personal Twitter account any latest news and stories. I contribute to Cardiff Blues’ unofficial site (thearmspark.co.uk) and will set up a blog for the coming season and will post a match review after every game, including commenting on any breaking news and WRU news.