Mark Hammett’s Cardiff Blues squad returned from France last weekend buoyed by their 28-3 bonus-point success over Grenoble, clinching a European Challenge Cup quarter-final in the process.
Scores by Lloyd Williams and the ever-consistent Josh Navidi sandwiched two penalty tries as the Blues stormed their way into the last eight, albeit as a best runner-up courtesy of an excruciatingly close one-point difference in their head-to-head record with London Irish.
This means that to eclipse their success of 2010 the Blues will have to do it the hard way with both the quarter and semi-finals drawn away from home. First up is a Welsh derby with Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade, before the winner faces a trip to either Edinburgh or London Irish.
There were a number of plus points from the Grenoble win, with Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell proving that they coexist in the same side with Anscombe continuing at ten, and Patchell excelling at full-back.
In other news there were some noticeable Blue absentees from Wales’ Six Nations squad. The most obvious of those was Adam Jones, and whilst at this stage in his career the big tight-head wouldn’t have been first choice with Scarlets’ Samson Lee performing out of his skin, he would surely have been an able and vastly experienced deputy to call upon so close to a World Cup.
Picked ahead of Jones was current Blues teammate Scott Andrews, a man yet to start a Pro12 game this campaign. This can be interpreted as yet another example of Warren Gatland’s distasteful and disrespectful dealing of players who have given so much to the game; see his treatment of Brian O’Driscoll, a legend of the sport, during the most recent Lions tour.
To pick a player three steps below him in his position at his own club stinks of bitterness and acrimony and it is a sad way to see the highly decorated Jones bow out of the international arena.
On top of this, Gatland has once again over-looked Navidi and Josh Turnbull both of whom have performed fantastically and deserve international recognition. At least Anscombe and Kristian Dacey have been awarded an opportunity alongside fellow team-mates Warburton, Jenkins, Allen and Cuthbert.