By Ben Lovell-Smith | Sport Editor
As the Autumn internationals come to a close and the domestic seasons kick start once again, rugby at the top level is certainly back. Meanwhile, Cardiff University’s exuberant, young and talented squad remain in limbo as they wait for the return of BUCS sport.
The squad has been training twice a week on top of commitment to workout plans in an effort to be ready for the new season when the time comes. But as Club Chairman Edward Thompson explains, maintaining motivation has not been easy. “It has been very difficult. Coming back from the summer it was easy, the boys had missed rugby a lot and getting out on the pitch was great fun. It has been hard to maintain motivation, but we’ve looked at it as a time to get out, to get onto the pitch with your mates and obviously it is great for your mental health.”
After the RFU announced a reduced format of the game, which includes the outlaw of the maul and the replacement of the scrum with a free kick, there is hope that the WRU may follow suit.
It is clear Edwards is enthused by the possibility of getting the knees muddy once again, although he is all too aware that the removal of the scrum would take a large facet of his game away from him. “From my point of view, I’m a loosehead prop so the scrum is a big part of my game. But if a free kick is what we have to do to carry on playing then it is not the end of the world!”
Last BUCS Super Rugby was a real disappointment for the first team who, despite much promise, went 16 matches without a win. Including losing both home and away fixtures against Swansea. Since then key players such as Chairman Ben Edwards, Captain Cary Davies and workhorse back row Aron Hughes have left the setup.
Though Thompson believes that the squad has the players to fill the void. Players such as Griff Evans, Mikel Davies, Ed Dunford, Ben Chapman and Luke Shore were all freshers who regularly played for the 1s last season, and Thompson notes their progress. “It’s all about stepping up, everyone has been in the gym putting size on and the mood is optimistic. They are great players, you can see on the pitch in recent training sessions they are definitely having more of an influence on the boys. Even if not by speaking, just by their actions. You can tell they are highly skilled, they have great rugby brains and they were very important to us last year and I guarantee they will be just as important this year.”
There will be no promotion or relegation this season, should BUCS Super Rugby go ahead in the new year, which takes the pressure off and allows for some experimentation. “If we get some game time it’d be great, it would be great to see what talent our freshers have got and to build for the future”
In other good news, the team welcomes Jamie Hoyes, who played Saracens academy alongside Thompson, as well as Cardiff Blues and Wales under 20s prop Theo Bevacqua.
The connection with Cardiff Blues is a longstanding one. Last season the team were granted to play a number of matches at Cardiff Arms Park, the home of the Blues. Whilst current Wales defence coach Gethin Jenkins did some work with the CURFC forwards during his time with the Pro14 side. A number of players were also invited to train with the Blues senior squad, to cover when squad numbers were low. “It’s a great connection that we do enjoy having with them” Thompson crows.
Much of the club’s latent energy last month was channeled into charity work for Movember. Collectively the boys amassed an astonishing £6,436, smashing last year’s total of £4,815. “To hit the 6,000 mark is a massive achievement from all the boys, it is great for the boys as well.” The tone is positive heading into the new year, perhaps the pandemic was the break that the squad needed.