The Cardiff Blues look set to be reinvigorated mid-way through the season, with European rugby chiefs announcing a rule change which states if a side that finishes in the lower reaches of the Pro 12 win’s the European Challenge Cup, then they will be jettisoned into a play-off with an Aviva Premiership side.
The winner of this play-off will face a two-legged affair with a Top 14 outfit for a place in next seasons Rugby Champions Cup.
With the Blues struggling in the Pro 12 this unexpected change in qualification criteria has given some hope that they may be playing in Europe’s elite club and provincial competition next season.
The Blues have struggled to come to terms with new director of rugby Mark Hammett this season with their league form being extremely poor, however there is enough quality within the capital city side’s ranks to produce three strong performances in the Challenge Cup.
The visit to Rodney Parade to face local rivals the Dragon’s in the quarter final is now a must win game in the context of their season.
Back in New Zealand, Blues head honcho Mark Hammett built a reputation as being a coach who took no prisoners and who wasn’t scared to upset the established applecart.
One senior player who seemingly hasn’t taken to Hammett is Welsh international winger Alex Cuthbert, who has turned down a dual contract to remain in Cardiff. There have been suggestions in some quarters that the Lions test winger does not approve of the Hammer’s training regime, with the Gloucester-born man subsequently being linked with a number of Aviva Premiership clubs.
In an ideal world one senses that the Blues would like to keep hold of Cuthbert, as he is one of Europe’s deadliest finishers after all. However, if the player is unhappy at the region it is probably best if both parties went in separate ways.
The Blues are in a position of strength in this situation as Cuthbert has a year left to run on his current contract, with any move requiring the Blues to receive a transfer sum for the player.