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Player Reviews

Mark Stcherbina signs for Cardiff Rugby

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Mark Stcherbina has signed a two year contract with Cardiff. The ex-NSW Waratahs player turned out for Australia A before enjoying two seasons with Biarritz in the south of France. Despite staring in the 75-25 demolition of Cardiff and scoring a try in that game, Stcherbina has chose the capital city club over other offers, mainly because of his desire to play regular first team rugby.

Despite signing a new two year contract as recently as March with Northampton, “Stitch” felt compelled to move on. Carlos Spencer’s arrival in the midlands would mean that the club could fall foul of Premier Rugby’s rules on only one overseas player allowed on the pitch at any time during a game.

Last season, the hardened centre was a regular for the Saints, starting 29 games during the season – more than any other player in the squad. When playing in Australia, Stcherbina developed a reputation as a utility back, so it will be interesting to see in what position he features for Cardiff next season. At the Waratahs, he was one of the quickest players in the squad.

The versatile centre has represented his country at many levels – from Australian schoolboys (which he captained) and Australian Sevens, all the way through to Australia A. He is one of the few players to make three Australian schoolboy teams and captained the team in 1994 and 1995. He played most of his Super 12 rugby on the wing, and only really switched to centre when he moved to France.

When Stitch played for Biarritz against Cardiff, he excelled at offloading the ball in the tackle, working well in tandem with Cassin (another player with rugby league experience). Such skills could prove a huge bonus to Cardiff if the new recruit’s strength can partner the rejuvinated pace of Jamie Robinson at outside centre.

So are there any similarities with Cardiff’s other recent southern hemisphere centre, Pieter Muller? Well, both enjoyed a brief spell playing Rugby League, with Stcherbina playing for the Manly Cannons side in the 2002-3 season.

Like Cardiff’s other closed season signing Xavier Rush, Stcherbina has a reputation for doing the basics well and is a model of stability. In a youthful midfield of talented but sometimes wayward players, this could be another excellent signing from Dai Young.

Interestingly, Stcherbina could become EU qualified within a year as he will then have been playing rugby in Europe for four years. He will become the second centre to join Cardiff from Northampton – following in the footsteps of Matt Allen. If Stcherbina proved to be the 100%-er that Allen was, then Northampton’s loss is very much Cardiff’s gain.

Did you know?

  • Stcherbina represented Australia at the 1998 Commonwealth games
  • He is one of the few players to make three Australian schoolboy teams and captained the team in 1994 and 1995.
  • Stcherbina played for the Manly Cannons side in the 2002-3 season

Xavier Rush signs for Cardiff Rugby

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Auckland Blues captain – Xavier Rush – has signed a three year contract with Cardiff and looks set to head for Wales in November. The big ball carrying number eight has an illustrious career behind him with caps at junior and senior level: U19, U21 and eight All Black caps secured in a career stretching back to his first appearance for New Zealand against Australia in 1998.

Rush has a reputation for doing the basics well, and is a born leader of men. Unlike some recent signings by Cardiff, Rush could prove to be the astute addition that the club has been missing since the departure of Peter Muller. Rush could provide the vital ingredient missing from recent seasons when there’s been a marked lack of control at the back of the scrum. The team has cried out for a physical presence to hold the youngsters together and instill some much needed confidence, and Rush could well provide the lift the club needs.

Rush captained New Zealand at U19 and U21 before going on to be selected by Graham Henry to play for the Blues when still playing U21 rugby. Having secured his first U21 cap, later on that season he went on to make his All Blacks debut. Captain of the Auckland Blues since 2001, Rush successfully led his province to the NPC title in 2002 and 2003 and also to victory in the Ranfurly Shield in 2003. In the same year, Rush led the Blues to their first Super 12 title – their third title and the first for six years. So 2003 was a big year for Rush, completing the coveted treble – Super 12, Ranfuly Shield and NPC titles.

Also in 2003 he returned to play for New Zealand after an absence of six years. But his star is on the wane and there’s tough competition challenging him for a place in Henry’s All Blacks. Rush’s eighth cap against South Africa last season would seem to be his last, with Mose Tuiali’i the favourite to inherit his crown.

Rush has always been one of Henry’s favourites, and the former Welsh coach is on record as claiming that both Rush and Carlos Spencer were the most influential players in Auckland rugby over the past seven or eight seasons. Rush has played 95 times for the Blues.

Rush’s his salary is rumoured to be as little as 100,000 Euro a year – a relative bargain in the current climate. It’s hardly the strength of squad that has attracted Rush to his new employers. He’s already admitted he hasn’t a clue about who play for Cardiff.

It seems that the number eight will not join Cardiff until November when the Celtic League will break for theautumn internationals. So it could be as late as December before we see the Auckland man wear the blue and black jersey for the first time.

Rush claims that he is not after a retirement package in coming to Cardiff and still has much to offer the capital city-based club. Having only yesterday officially announced his departure to the Cardiff Club, he can look back on a career in New Zealand where he played more than 165 matches for the Blues and Auckland.

It seems that he consulted with Henry before making his decision, and Cardiff can be thankful that the strong ties between Henry and Dai Young remain. Last season, Henry drafted Young in to work on the All Blacks scrummaging, and now it seems that Henry is repaying Young’s support.

Did you know?

  • Rush once played an exhibition mixed doubles tennis match partnered by Martina Navratilova.
  • Xavier Rush’s sister- Annaleah – has also represented New Zealand at rugby?
  • Rush was severely reprimanded by the NZRFU for being photographed drunk and asleep in a public place?

Dai Young – A tribute

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This month saw the retirement from International rugby of one of the greatest scrummaging tight heads that the game has seen.

David Young has enjoyed a wonderful international career since making his International debut in the 1987 World Cup quarter-final against the Old Enemy England but the woeful performance of his team mates against Argentina this month led him to resign from the Welsh captaincy and the International game.

His leadership skills were always evident as he captained every team he played in from Wales at under 15 level through to the midweek 2001 Lions, which were known as Dai’s driftwoods. Graham Henry’s tribute was “… he is by nature a leader and a captain, a role he has played with every team he has been involved with throughout his life.”

Young first joined Cardiff RFC in 1988 and made 33 appearances for the Blue Blacks in the next two seasons.

He won 14 Union caps for Wales before, in January 1990, signing for Leeds RLFC in a £165,000 deal. He stayed in Rugby League for 6 seasons, winning 13 Welsh Rugby League caps in his time. He returned to Cardiff RFC in December 1996.

He is the only man to tour with the British Lions in three separate decades, first touring Australia in 1989 as part of a triumphant squad.

He has played over 100 games for the club and his 50 caps for Wales makes him the most-capped prop ahead of Graham Price (41).

David is club captain for a fourth successive year, emulating the feat of John Scott 20 years ago.

The time span of Young’s career is highlighted by the now Welsh team Manager Alan Phillips, who was a former playing colleague of Young and packed down at hooker in that World Cup Quarter Final against England. Phillips said: “It is sad to see a great international career come to an end, but what is pleasing is that David was ready to make the decision himself.”

In trying to explain his departure, Young said it had been a difficult decision, because playing for Wales meant so much to him. “But in the wake of recent results I felt this was a decision I had to make,” he said.

At 34 years of age, Young seemingly wilted under the intense spotlight that captaincy brings and he has admitted that he thought about quitting after the defeat by Ireland last month, but played on hoping that the team’s form would improve against Argentina.

He said: “I had considered retiring after the Irish game, but decided to carry on to try to put things right. The intense criticism that has followed our two recent defeats, allied to the high expectation that always goes with playing for Wales weighs heavily not just on me, but also my family. For too long, my family have come second to rugby in my life. Now is the time for them to be put firmly first.”

It is a shame that his International career could not be ended on a happier note.

Fact File:
1967 Born Aberdare, Mid Glamorgan, July 26
1987 After limited senior rugby experience with Swansea, plays in Wales’ quarter-final victory over England in Australia
1987 Scored his only Test-match try during Wales’ 46-0 victory over the US in Cardiff
1988 Five Nations debut in Wales’ 11-3 success against England at Twickenham – played all three games of Triple Crown success.
1989 Toured Australia with the 1989 British Lions, starting all three Tests.
1990 Turned professional by agreeing a £165,000 deal with Leeds RLFC.
1995 Wales XIII reach World Cup semi-finals and are crowned European champions.
1996 Switched back to union, joining Cardiff and reclaiming his Wales place for the 28-19 defeat by Australia.
1997 Selected for his second Lions tour, this time to South Africa, making four starts, but none in the Test side.
1999 Featured in his second rugby union World Cup, 12 years after the first, as Wales reached the quarter-finals, bowing out to Australia.
2000 Appointed as Wales captain, replacing his Cardiff team-mate Rob Howley.
2000 Overtakes Graham Price as Wales’ most-capped prop when he makes his 42nd Test appearance against England at Twickenham.
2001 Picked for a third Lions tour, filling the role of midweek captain during the 10-match trip to Australia.
2001 October – Becomes the 14th player to win 50 Welsh caps – Young’s sons are the match mascots – but Wales suffer a record 36-6 defeat against Ireland.
2001 November – Argentina beat Wales 30-16 in Cardiff. Young announces his retirement from international rugby just 48 hours later.

No respect

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So Wales’ World Cup dream has finally come to a crushing end. The squad gave their best, but were beaten by clearly the better team. It was a shame that refereeing decisions marred such a big occasion. Though we’ve mentioned the woeful standard of domestic referees on this page before, it was disappointing to see a global fall in standards.

Now that the World Cup’s over for Wales, we’re now all aching to see Cardiff’s first XV bannish the memories of Stradey and turn on some real rugby prior to the start of the European campaign.

On the team that has fought its way to only four points behind the present league leaders (who still have to play us in two four pointers, home and away), players likeSteve Williams and Paul Burke have done us proud in the absense of so many first team players.

It was very disappointing to see that despite Owain Williams appalling lack of respect for the punters who pay his wages, his obscene jesture to a fan at Caerphilly went unpunished. This comes as little suprise though, and it was rediculous – but wholely predictable – that Robert Norster and other back room faceless individuals have done nothing to fine or suspend Mr Williams. Such indiscipline and arrogance will store up trouble for future amateur performances.

We are disappointed with your lack of respect for the fans.

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