So Mark Hammett has gone. Last week the Blues confirmed that the former All Black had left with immediate effect, heading back to his homeland citing a need to “put his family first”, just half a year into his three-year deal.
Despite a truly rotten six months, which can quite easily be summed up in last week’s horrendous 40-24 loss away to Treviso, Blues bosses apparently made last-ditch attempts to try and keep Hammett at the club. By that stage however, the Kiwi had already made up his mind and, given the way his tenure had gone, it came as no surprise to see his departure.
The Blues are down in lowly tenth within the Pro12, an absolute mile away from European Cup qualification for next season. Their only hope is to win the Challenge Cup this campaign, where they face the Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade in the Quarters in early April. Even if they were to be successful in this competition however, (a big ask considering their form so far this term) they would still have to play a two-legged playoff semi-final and final against mid-placed teams from the French Top14 and English Aviva Premiership.
Blues assistants Dale McIntosh and Paul John will now take the helm in an interim position, with Rob Howley one of the early favourites to take over permanently having spent three years with the Blues as a backs coach until 2008 ahead of becoming Wales’ assistant manager to Warren Gatland in the current set-up.
Other possibilities at this early stage include Nigel Davies, most recently of Gloucester; Danny Wilson, current forwards coach at Bristol who has accumulated a wealth of coaching experience at Cardiff, London Welsh, the Dragons and Scarlets; as well as Geraint John, Shaun Edwards, Mike Ruddock, Mark Anscombe and probably the most unlikely name to be linked at this stage, Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young.
Next up for Cardiff is Edinburgh at the Arms Park in the Pro12, with the Scots experiencing a decent run of form of late and really challenging for that important 6th spot in the league, exactly where the Blues would like to be. It promises to be another crucial game for the Blues.