By Ben Lovell-Smith | Sport Editor
The Pro14 is back this weekend and the Cardiff Blues begin their season with a trip to Italy, where they will face Zebre, followed by the visit of Connacht the following week at the Arms Park. Two very winnable fixtures which could be the springboard to a successful 2020/21 season in the Welsh capital.
Last season was hit and miss for the Blues, only winning seven out of 15 games which left them second bottom of conference B. However, failures can be put down to a broken squad, impacted by the international call ups of a number of players, as well as the squad adapting to a new coaching set up. This season will certainly offer more stability.
Blues Strengthen the Squad
Despite this disappointment, John Mulvihill’s men have had cause to celebrate during the short pre season break. A number of key players signed new contracts. Liam Belcher, Will Boyde, Aled Summerhill, Jason Tovey and stalwart Lloyd Williams have all committed their future to the region. Whilst the arrivals of Welsh internationals Rhys Carre and Cory Hill boost the squad for the upcoming season, after moves from Saracens and Newport Gwent Dragons respectively. Exciting Welsh youngsters Sam Moore and Luke Scully have also joined the club.
Clearly, the squad is full of competition this season. The Blues have a wealth of talent in most positions. Including a number of Wales internationals, Dillon Lewis, Tomos Williams, Hallam Amos, to name just a few.
Cardiff will be boosted by the success of star wing Josh Adams’ ankle surgery. The Welsh international returned to play in fine form in the two post lockdown derby matches against Scarlets and Ospreys, scoring two tries. In a Lion’s year, Adams will be looking to do everything he can to get on the plane.
Back Row Options
However the Blues are by far the strongest in the back row. Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi, Will Boyde, Olly Robinson and Josh Turnbull were all key players last season but none of them are guaranteed a starting place. After Nick Williams’ retirement, there are some big boots to fill and the arrival of Sam Moore from Sale Sharks could be the answer.
Moore is a hefty ball carrying number eight, with a great reputation, having been selected for the England senior squad in 2018. The continuing emergence of James Botham is enough to heighten the senses alone, Botham performed fantastically in the last match against Ospreys, making 17 tackles and eight carries. Shane Lewis-Hughes is another exciting young option.
Cardiff Uni’s Man in the Camp
The academy squad for this season includes Cardiff University’s very own Theo Bevacqua. A loose head prop with a very bright future. Having already made his Blues first team debut at the age of 18, Bevacqua is tipped for the top. Working alongside legendary 100 cap former Wales international and fellow loose head prop Gethin Jenkins, there is no reason he can’t achieve international honours. Look out for him in this season’s Celtic Cup.
Such a talented squad should be performing better than second bottom of the conference. Hopefully after a settling period and off the back of victory against the Ospreys the Blues will hit the ground running against Zebre.