The club have announced the squad for the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and obviously the most telling ommission is Neil Jenkins. A suprise inclusion is Andrew Henry over the excellent Owain Ashman – a somewhat strange decision considering the fact that Owain can also cover the full back position and given the relative performances of the two youngsters in the blue and black jersey. Nick Walne and Dan Baugh have also not been registered. Andy Booth returns to the club and is a vital, experienced addition to the half backs area, where we were desperate for an experienced head. Iestyn Harris is included, despite failing to start a game of rugby union yet.
Five “old” heads in the back line are surrounded by youth and the success of the campaign could well rest on how Nick Robinson fares at the higher standard. The game against Northampton on the 28th is likely to be the biggest of his season – a game we simply must win with a visit to Clermont-Ferrand during the following week.
Naming four wingers and only three centres could leave us a little exposed, unless the club is considering using Harris as a makeshift centre.
In the pack, we have a very settled, solid look to the front five with only two changes from last season, both youngsters. Going into the campaign with only three second row forwards may also be seen as risky, unless Rudy is hoping to play Kacala in the second row.
The back row is all change though – three new signings (one yet to play in Cardiff colours) and the impressive McShane.
Given the stability of our front five, it’ll be the performance of the half backs and the new back row combinations that’ll be key to us progressing from the group. With Mounier, Kacala and Muller, there’s experience of playing in France and with Allen they have a European Cup winner.
There’s not much time for these new combinations to gel, with only the Swansea game as a warm up before the real fun starts. A top class performance from Robert Howley against Matt Dawson will be key to getting the campaign off to a winning start.
|Rhys Williams (21), Paul Jones (23)|
|Craig Hudson (23), Andrew Henry (21), Craig Morgan (23), Anthony Sullivan (32)|
|Matt Allen (28), Jamie Robinson (21), Pieter Muller (32)|
|Nick Robinson (19), Iestyn Harris (24)|
|Robert Howley (31), Andy Booth (33), Chris Miller (19)|
|Spencer John (28), David Young (34), Kenneth Fourie (24), Peter Rogers (32), Andrew Lewis (28) Gary Powell (21)|
|Jonathan Humphreys (32), Greg Woods (20)|
|Adam Jones (21), Craig Quinnell (26), John Tait (28)|
|Dan McShane (21), Martyn Williams (26), Emyr Lewis (33), Rob Appleyard (29), Semo Sititi (27), Gregori Kacala (35), Francois Mounier (23)|