by Ben Lovell-Smith
After the BUCS Super Rugby season ended for Cardiff University last Wednesday, all eyes are now on next month’s Welsh Varsity match at the Liberty Stadium and an exciting future beyond that.
It has been a disappointing season for Cardiff, who started the season off strongly with two wins. However, since then, Cardiff have lost 16 on the bounce which is not the ideal preparation heading into Varsity. However, for club captain Ben Edwards, this is not a reason to be concerned, “I take my hat off to the boys, the positivity that we have kept has been second to none.”
In many ways it has been a transitional season for Cardiff, with both first choice half backs and a number of other key forwards having graduated last year. A number of freshers have had to step up, notably Mikel Davies and Ed Dunford at nine and ten respectively. When you consider that hooker Ben Chapman and Luke Shore are also new to the team, the spine of the squad has been completely refreshed.
Though this process has been detrimental to this season, it points to an exciting future. Edwards emphasises that Davies and Dunford are a key cog in that wheel.
“Mark my words, Ed Dunford will be the best ten in BUCS Super Rugby, by second or third year we will have the best half back combination in the league again.”
On top of this, a newfound bond with Cardiff Blues has strengthened the future of this bright young team.
“This season has been quite special, we have developed a great relationship with the Blues. [Use of the Arms Park] has allowed us to play and train every week without fail.”
This relationship provides access to the Cardiff Arms Park, a luxury which the club has had to pay for in the past and has been important in maintaining a stable training pattern for the team.
The relationship has extended to the club’s player pathway. This season the Blues signed exciting Wales under 18s prop forward Theo Bevacqua, who will study Economics and Philosophy at Cardiff University, and is expected to break into the first team. Bevacqua is a real coup for the side, who have been light in the front row this season.
With the league season having now finished, preparation for Varsity begins next week for the squad who will be going through a mini pre-season, training in a professional format during the days over Easter.
“Varsity camp is like no other thing you will ever do, there is a constant buzz, I can’t wait for it,” added Edwards.
This year Varsity will be away in Swansea, culminating with the clash between the two first teams at the Liberty Stadium, home of the Ospreys, but Edwards doesn’t think that this will have any effect on his side.
“You can feel the pressure, but for us it will be no different to St Helen’s [Rugby and Cricket Ground], the venue doesn’t really bother us”.
It was at St Helen’s where Cardiff lost 24-10 to Swansea in November, the first of two defeats to Swansea this season.
Despite this, Edwards is unphased and is eager to take on the challenge head on.
“Swansea are Swansea, we knew they were going to be a challenge… on the result of us narrowly losing out twice, this Varsity is going to be quite tasty, it’s a shot at redemption.”