By Ben Lovell-Smith | Sport Editor
The new year has been a mixed bag for Cardiff Blues, both on the field and off it. Nevertheless, the prospect of a coaching shake up, new signings and an off field re-brand point to a promising future for Cardiff Rugby.
January 1st marked a sixth defeat in 11 games since the start of the season and coincided with the immediate departure of head coach John Mulvihill in advance of his contract expiration this summer. Subsequently, former Cardiff head coach and player Dai Young has stepped into the fold as interim head coach until the end of the season.
Following Young’s arrival, the Blues achieved back to back victories against the Scarlets before defeating the Ospreys on return to the Arms Park. However, subsequent results soured in the face of tougher Irish opponents Connacht and Munster and with the absence of a number of Welsh internationals from the side. This has left the Blues holding onto a European Rugby Champions Cup qualification spot but relying on Edinburgh, who have two games in hand, to drop points. Having dismissed Bennetton Treviso last weekend, the last of the Blues’ remaining domestic fixtures is a season defining fixture at home to Edinburgh
Meanwhile, the Blues’ successful December qualification for the European Rugby Challenge Cup knockout stages has drawn them against an in-form London Irish side for an away from home last-sixteen match.
In other news, Shane Lewis-Hughes faces a long six months on the sidelines after a successful shoulder operation. Whilst Cardiff University’s own Theo Bevacqua made his first team debut in the match against Munster as his stock continues to rise within the region.
It is possible that Young’s stay may be extended into the following season to accompany the arrival of Former Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half Dwayne Peel, who will join the Blues coaching staff as attack coach next summer from Ulster.
Also arriving next season is 34 year old and 50 cap Welsh international Rhys Priestland, who was reportedly in line for a Wales recall for this year’s Six Nations before Wayne Pivac’s request was turned down by the regions. Priestland has been in good form for Bath, having recently broken the English Premiership record of 28 consecutive successful kicks at goal. At Cardiff, he will compete with Jarrod Evans and Jason Tovey for the number 10 jersey at the Arms Park, and should prove a valuable mentor in the development of the likes of Ben Thomas, Luke Scully and Ben Burnell.
The region has also announced that the Cardiff Blues will be rebranded as Cardiff Rugby from the 2021/22 season onwards. The decision was taken with both a view to the future and in homage to the past glories of Cardiff RFC. The ‘Blues’ will once again become ‘the Blue and Blacks’, and adopt the famous colours as well as a new logo design that acknowledges the club’s existence for more than 145 years. It was felt that the ‘Blues’ moniker was overused among sporting circles and that ‘Cardiff’ alone would be a better title as it is recognised so widely as a rugby stronghold as well as the commercial powerhouse of Wales and as one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.
It is all change for the Blues, but newfound vision at board level and experienced arrivals on and off the field leave plenty to be excited about going forwards at Cardiff.