Category Archives: Squad Review

What’s the squad look like?

It’s a Squad Game

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Much that Danny Wilson does and says is very impressive, so the recent news that there will be fewer contracted players in the seasons to come is well received. Wilson is on the same path that Alec Evans took when he arrived at the time, in that he also recognised there were far too many players at training sessions thus diluting the quality of the work to be done.

Also, in the modern professional age, too many players means too much cost so cutting the ‘never will be’ players from the wage bill is nothing but sensible. It’s worth noting that 41 players need to be registered for the European Competitions, so that is the benchmark for squad sizes.

When Rudy Joubert arrived at the club, he wanted to set up his squad by age groups as much as quality, so that meant that there was a natural progression of talent. There is much sense in this approach as we all saw what happened to the Amlin Squad of 2010. Only Jenkins, Filise and Warburton remain from those who played in that game – that is NOT good squad planning.

To assess the job Wilson faces in remoulding this squad after years of awful recruitment, below is a list of players by quality. The first group (1-15) shows those who should be first team picks in a team challenging to win the PrO’12. As many of those should be internationals, the next group (16-30) should be your good club players who can step up to perform. The final group (31-45) should be the up and coming Academy graduates. The list shows how poor is this Cardiff squad:

1-15 (10)

Cory Allen, Gareth Anscombe, Alex Cuthbert, Tom James, Gethin Jenkins, Ellis Jenkins, Rey Lee Lo, Rhys Patchell, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Williams

16-30 (6)

Kristian Dacey, Jarrad Hoeata, Craig Mitchell, Josh Navidi, Blaine Scully, Josh Turnball

31-45 (13)

Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, Cam Dolan, Jarrod Evans (Y), Dan Fish, Sam Hobbs, Tavis Knoyle, Dillon Lewis (Y), Ethan Lewis (Y), Garyn Smith (Y), Aled Summerhill (Y), Tomos Williams (Y), James Down

45+ (12)

Liam Belcher (Y), Gareth Davies, Tom Davies,  Gavin Evans, Tau Filise, Tom Isaacs, Lewis Jones, Lou Reed, Matthew Rees, Richard Smith, Adam Thomas, Manoa Vosawai

As you can see, the squad is dreadfully imbalanced. The players marked (Y) are the Academy graduates who could be pushing through so it’s good to see 6 of those in the correct category. What stands out, of course, is 11 players who should be culled from the squad completely. The list also shows that only three of the six non-Welsh qualified players are in the correct category.

I believe that a turnover of those 12 players is needed and that is assuming that Patchell stays and more Academy graduates feature in the 31-45 group. The first team needs 5 of those players and 7 more need to be added to the ’15-30′ list.

So where will those players come from, who are they and what would they cost?

1-15: Hooker (nWq), Tight Head (nWq), Second Row (nWq), Second Row (Bradley Davies), Number 8 (Ross Moriarty)

16-30: Loose Head (Rhys Gill), Second Row (Time Server), Second Row (Time Server), Back Row, Scrum Half, Centre, Centre

As you can see from the list above, I don’t think that it is possible to recruit to becoming a PrO’12 contender by next season as the Welsh qualified players of suitable quality just aren’t available without raiding another Welsh team. Therefore, there is an onus on Wilson to coach players up that squad ranking. The big challenge is for players like James Down, Lou Reed, Macauley Cook, Tavis Knoyle and Garyn Smith to move up that list.

Losing Patchell to gain Halfpenny seems to be a strong rumour, but that wouldn’t really move the squad along. The key work needs to be done in Wilson’s specialist area of the front five.

Is the budget there to do this? I’d say releasing the players rated 45+ should free up at least £800,000 a year which should go most of the way to playing for the 5 first team players needed.

I doubt that there is anything left in the budget for the 7 squad players needed, so Wilson’s coaching team are going to have to work really hard to push Cardiff up that PrO’12 table.

Welsh Qualified Players Playing in England:

Bath: Sid Blackmore (BR), Dominic Day (SR), Jonathan Evans (SH), Rhys Priestland (OH)

Exeter: Phil Dolman (FB), Tomos Francis (THP), Adam Hughes (C), Damien Welch (L)

Gloucester: Richard Hibbard (H), James Hook (OH), Ross Moriarty (BR), Mat Protheroe (OH), Nicky Thomas (THP)

Harlequins: Owen Evans (LHP), Adam Jones (THP), Jamie Roberts (C)

Leicester: Owen Williams (OH)

London Irish; Andrew Fenby (W), Darren Allinson (SH)

Northampton: George North (W)

Sale: Eifion Lewis-Roberts (P), Nick Macleod (OH), Jonathan Mills (SR)

Saracens: Rhys Gill (LHP)

Wasps: Bradley Davies (SR), Edd Shervington (H), Thomas Young (BR)

Worcester: Jean-Baptiste Bruzier (SH), Sam Lewis (BR), Joe Rees (THP)

Complacency

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Cardiff have a long tradition of failing to perform in Europe, and the recent defeat at Headingly was very much part of this tradition. And it really is the performance that fans endure – not the loss. The famous capitulation at Gloucester five years ago mirrored the performance against Leeds as a shambolic ramble took the pitch and put in one of the most feeble and half-hearted performances you are ever likely to see.

The defeat at Biarritz two years ago was by a team hugely superior in every facet. Cardiff – by contrast – were a mixture of youngsters struggling manfully to compete. The best coach in the world could have been leading that squad and he would have struggled.

But the performance on Saturday was all the more dreadful given the abject weakness of the opposition. Leeds are heading for English rugby’s second division. None of the back row – Parkes, Thomas and Morgan – would get in a Welsh professional team and their mixture of has-been Scots with overpaid southern hemisphere geriatrics feeding their pension funds are consistently walloped in the Guiness Premiership. There is simply no comparison with the Gloucester team of 2001 and the Biarritz team of 2003.

Historical Perspective

The inability to learn from previous mistakes and to react is a classic indicator either ineptitude or complacency. This is the third major game in as many matches where Young has failed to coach his players to improve their performance at the breakdown. Against Llanelli, Perpignan and now Leeds, a failure to commit players to the breakdown gifts the opposition the ball. Not too long ago, Cardiff were leaking penalties at this facet of play, but now Young’s coaching has gone too far the other way. What’s the best way to stop giving penalties? Don’t compete!

We’re just not good enough

So why is that then Dai? Is it because the players aren’t good enough, the team isn’t good enough or the coaching staff isn’t good enough? Let’s start with the pack. Well, four of the pack that played against Leeds are likely to start against England – TRT, Sidoli, Williams and Gethin. Three of this quartet featured in the team that defeated Australia. So, Dai, are you trying to tell us that the Leeds pack is better than the Australian pack?

So the team isn’t good enough? You mean as individuals or as a unit? Well, as fans have rarely seen the individuals playing as a unit, then it’s difficult to comment. Unit skills against Leeds were dreadful. The lineout was a shambles and back play haphazard and lacking in any tactical variation. Sure Cardiff weren’t good enough – any fool can read the scoreboard! The question is “why”?

The ability to perform on the day

No supporter complains when the team is beaten by better opponents. When Cardiff lost at Wasps, sure people were unhappy about the manner of victory, but few of us seriously expected a win. But what makes supporter fume is a lack of application and commitment – some call is passion – on the day. For the Headingly game, there must have been around 1,000 Cardiff supporters in the ground. Most would have traveled up from Cardiff – a round trip of 700 miles. Some came on the supporters bus, others in minibuses, and some with their kids. Now taking your kids for nine hours in a car on a Sunday isn’t an easy commitment! Then there’s the money spent on petrol, tickets – accommodation in some cases – food, entertaining the kids. All this takes more than a little application and commitment.

Supporters have every right to ask whether the players on the pitch showed sufficient application and commitment.

Frankly speaking, the collective commitment on Sunday was insulting. The team lacked hunger and aggression as a unit. Their commitment to the tackle was dreadful – most players waiting for the ball carrier to hit them, rather than to attack the ball carrier. There was no sense of urgency to support the ball carrier on the few occasions when Cardiff did go forward.

The way teams chase kicks is often a very good way to judge the professionalism and application of a side. This is a skill you can teach kids – it’s not inherently difficult but a good benchmark for how the team is working together. Good sides chase the kick in a line across the pitch, but throughout the game Cardiff simply failed to work together. The kicker and Powell were often the only two in a dog leg attempt at defence that was easily beaten. There are very few clearer examples of the poor discipline and lack of mental application within the team than this simple skill.

Lack of ambition at the club

“I’m certainly not going to get rid of him Dai Young. We are damn lucky to have him”

Cardiff chairman, Peter Thomas saying that Young is the best he can get

Let’s try and ignore the propaganda that’s pumped out from Thomson House and Llandaff, and look at what ambition the club has. When Peter Thomas says Young won’t get the sack, that means he believes Young is the best they can get. He believes that Young is getting the best out of the players, the team is coached well and Young’s team of coaches are best of the club

Sure Thomas can talk about signing better players and we’d all like to see that, but a coach’s job is to get the best our of the players he has. Can anyone say that Young did that at Headingly?

Clearly Thomas and Young believe that this is the best we can hope for. They look for excuses at every opportunity – and their not alone in this, by the way. Lyn Jones and Paul Turner are full of excuses. Blame every one else other than your own failure to deliver. So Thomas and Young think the only way to improve things is to sign better players.

But isn’t real ambition about pushing players to perform? Isn’t it about challenging existing players to improve? Sure they will come up against better individuals, but shouldn’t the team – as a unit – be able to defeat oppositions who play as individuals?

Dai Young – Peter Thomas

poodle

Why does Thomas defend Young’s inadequacies so vehemently? Clearly that is because Young is the sort of coach that Thomas wants. Now why would that be? Young is everything Thomas wants in a coach – he never complains about a lack of support in the press, he’s happy to let other board members dabble in the signing of players, his placid persona fits exactly with Thomas’ ego. Thomas does not want another coach at CAP because any strong minded leader would clearly challenge Thomas’ position.

Coaches want the best players to work with and build the team. So let’s look at what’s happening at CAP on the player/recruitment side. You may think that the signing of Lomu was commercial genius but that was not down to anything actively done by Cardiff RFC, let alone Young as coach. The Lomu deal was set up by Steve Hansen – Peter Thomas was on a golf course at the time and knew nothing about it! Hansen called Norster and offered him the deal – all the club had to do was sign.

Lee Thomas’ imminent move to Sale comes as a direct failure of the club to recognize his talent over the grossly ineffective Macleod. Against Gloucester last season, Thomas showed his potential and more importantly his mental toughness. He underlined that again against Leeds with the best performance of any of the back line. But players with mental toughness are not what the coach wants – more poodles please!

Quinnell is not being offered another contract for next season. So yet another player with a passion for the club and a hard edge so sorely lacking in the pack. Hence Young’s failure to give the big man a start this season and hence why Cardiff are so often overpowered in the maul.

The signing of Matthew J Watkins – not a bad player – is another mystery. Players get touted around the clubs in an effort to boost their salaries – as happened with Stephen Jones – but surely the coach should be making a shopping list of what he needs, not allowing Norster to sign up players just because they become available?

The Future

Perhaps the expectations of fans always outweighs the reality of clubs to deliver, but in this case the fans are clearly getting short changed. We don’t expect a squad of word class players, but we expect the squad to improve on their weakness, approach every game with a self belief that anything can happen on the day and play their hearts out on the pitch.

We fans know the limitations of the present squad. We can also see the cliques emerging which means players like Lee Thomas have no option but to leave the club having suffered the public humiliation of being told that Macleod is a better player than he. But we also know that Leeds are a poor side – Llanelli stuffed them and they are at the bottom of the league …. that is no accident.

Players at Cardiff are underachieving – ignore what Young says about not being in the top eight in Europe. What counts is the performance on the day – defeating Leeds – not whether Cardiff should be in the top eight. At Headingly, the selection was wrong, the performance abysmal and the application dreadful.

Talk is of the players working hard, but clearly not enough of that is happening on the pitch! Young players like Czekaj and Macleod are simply not improving at the necessary rate. Others – like Nick Robinson – are betraying mental weakness which reflects the complacency at the club. Players are being sheltered instead of being toughened by the club. This can be the only explanation for insulting away performances which mock the efforts made by so many supporters.

And this is the biggest problem Cardiff face – the lack of professionalism of the players.

This stems from the culture at the club where a weak coach is protected by a dabbling multi-millionaire who keeps his money in his back pocket. What the club needs is a coach who is far far tougher and far more demanding of his players. What sort of message does it send out when Young says Cardiff are not good enough to compete with the top eight in Europe? Are Leeds in the top eight??

Will Dai Young be coach next season? Too right he will!

How a siege mentality drives customers away

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Over the year’s we’ve been big critics of the club and the way it almost seems to set out to deliberately alienate fans. Full credit to Dai Young for answering points raised by fans – this is a first – but once more, even when trying to take one step forward, the club has succeeded in taking two steps backwards.

Cardiff supporters are rightfully justified in feeling indignant about some dreadful performances by Cardiff under Dai Young’s leadership. Who can forget the humiliation at home to Northampton last season, the slaughter in Biarritz? Fans pay good money to follow and support the team and feel let down when substandard performances humiliate their efforts to be real fans.

So let’s look at Dai’s points.

  • “I don’t have to justify myself to anyone.” Criticism of Dai is not done by true Cardiff supporters.

Here begins the first lesson. Never ever openly criticise your customers. They “buy” your product, and pay your wages. You may think they are imbeciles and that you know far more about everything and anything than they do, but never EVER show an arrogant streak. Comments like, “I am answerable to the supporters”, “I fully understand the fans frustrations”, “We have to improve – and improve quickly” will find a more sympathetic ear.

  • “Critics of Cardiff have no sense of reality.”

Clearly Dai’s sense of reality is different from those who complain about Cardiff’s performances this season (and last). Cardiff fans believe defeating the worst team in the Celtic League, a team that conceded over 100 points in their previous two Celtic League games is a realistic expectation. Dai does not. What does that say about how low Dai is aiming this season?

  • “Putting Cardiff “on top” will not happen overnight.

We’ve seen a constant slide in Cardiff’s performances over the last four seasons. From European Quarter Finalists (hey! We even made the final, once!), to European no-hopers in the space of three to four seasons. What on earth makes Dai think that the fans are expecting to be “on top”? A win away to the worst team in the Celtic League would do fine for starters, and to arrest the constant decline would be nice. “On top”? That’ll be the day!

  • “When the full squad is available, things will turn around. I will not blame the players.

When the full squad is available, snow will fall in the Sahara. All squads have injuries. Well conditioned squads have fewer injuries. Draw your own conclusions. As for not blaming the players, well, a good coach would never say we lost because the players are rubbish. But, a smarter coach would say, “Our performances have been sub standard. The players know that if they do not improve, we will face severe problems this season.”

  • “Hardly any of the signings have played yet.

This is an interesting one. Fester has played and his crass behaviour let himself, the club and the supporters down. Gareth Williams hasn’t played because he was injured. Wasn’t this checked before he signed? Andy Moore took one games to get injured – conditioning? Why was Shanklin signed given the weakness elsewhere in the squad and the obvious fact he’ll barely play for Cardiff this season? Crompton – likewise – is another sick note specialist. Dan Baugh was offered a new two year contract. Why? Isn’t it obvious he’s past his best? Likewise for Matt Allen – both good soldiers for the club, but injured and lacking the impact of old.

  • “Last season, I didn’t see it (losing away from home) as a particular problem.

I really can’t follow this comment at all. Three words for your Dai – Northampton, Ulster and Biarritz. There, now please explain again why you can’t see this as a particular problem.

  • “True fans should take time to see what is happening at Cardiff.

How much time, Dai? Given the decline over the last four seasons, and this being your second year at Cardiff, how much time do you need to beat the worst club in the Celtic League?

  • “When the World Cup is over, we will be more than a match for anyone.

What at? Rugby? Come on Dai. Wake up! Every other team in the League will be strengthened. The vast majority have far more players at the World Cup than Cardiff!

 

I’m in a minority in that I’m prepared to give Dai the benefit of the doubt. Blaming him for the ills at the club severely misses the point. The comments made in the press show how poor the club is at speaking with supporters, and how incapable they are of attracting new ones. The lack of dialogue between fans and the club has worsened. As I’ve said before, familiar faces are no longer there on the terraces.

It’s about time the club came clean and stated it’s aspirations for this season, otherwise fans will become even more disenchanted with substandard performances against pretty dire opposition.

Good luck against Edinburgh, Dai! You going to need it!

 

Welsh Internationals – A waste of money?

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vs

Two weeks away from the start of the season, and the question on many Cardiff supporter’s lips is, “How many games will our stars to play for the Blue Blacks this season?”

The Australians feel no need for warm up internationals, but in a desperate drive to bleed every last pound from the pockets of Welsh supporters, the WRU is cramming in as many meaningless internationals as it can. Given Hansen’s first selection against Ireland, he himself has admitted that he can’t pick his best team. These aren’t warm up games, they’re revenue generators for the Union. Hansen will name his squad of 30 on the 5th September and from the 30th August to Wales’ first game against Canada on 12th October, the players will be allowed to “rest”.

Wales’ last pool game is against New Zealand on Sunday 2nd November, and as runners up in Pool D, they are likely to face Australia on November 9th.

There is an agreement in place between Hansen and Wales’ professional clubs, that the top players are likely to be out for three weeks following this game, which means a rest for Martyn Williams, Iestyn Harris and possibly Rhys Williams and Jamie Robinson until Sunday 30th November. This would mean the first game these play for Cardiff could be the first European game against Sale on December 5th AT THE EARLIEST!!

Then comes the Six Nations.

With the WRU likely to ban players from playing for their clubs during the Six Nations, between February 7th and April 3rd, we’re unlikely to see Cardiff’s Welsh internationals turn out for the Blue Blacks.

It sure makes you wonder whether its worth having a Welsh international on your books when they simply don’t play sufficient games for their clubs to justify their salaries.

So how many Celtic League games will Cardiff’s Welsh internationals play this season? Well, there’s the game at the end of December against Pontybonty, and a further two in May meaning a maximum of three!!! All rather farsical! Don’t expect the club or the Union (or their lackies in the press) to broadcast this fact, but how can they expect us to pay for season tickets when we don’t get to see the best players at the club?

Munster have splashed out on Cullen, Jones Hughes and a Kiwi prop to name just three. And no wonder. They’ve realised that if the Unions are going to stop the clubs fielding their best XVs, the need to recruit “overseas” stars to attract supporters through the turnstiles.

But as we all know, this can’t last.

Expect an increasing number of players to retire from international rugby to concentrate on the more lucrative and stable club game. To our benefit, one of those is Crazy – who will now hopefully enjoy an injury-free season in Blue and Black.

The Union is cutting money to the clubs, but depriving the clubs of their prime assets. Time to offload the internationals?

Cardiff’s 10 Welsh Squad Players ….
Rhys Williams, Craig Morgan, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Robinson, Iestyn Harris, Nick Robinson, Ryan Powell, Ben Evans, Martyn Williams, Robin Sowden-Taylor

 

Cardiff Squad Season 2003 – 2004

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Last September, we selected our squad for the 2003-4 season, and now Uncle Peter’s had his chance! The back line remains largely unaltered, apart from the addition of ex-Saracens Tom Shanklin and Jonathan Vaughton from Swansea. Shanklin is well know to us all in Wales – a strong runner and tough tackler he’s very much built in the Gareth Thomas mould. However, something we often overlook is his tender years – he’s still only 24, so the youthful make up of the back line will remain.

Vaughton, meanwhile, is a product of Swansea’s U21 academy and was curiously not awarded a regional contract by Lyn Jones. Last season, he was top try scorer with seven, and also made numerous first XV appearances.

It was good to see the club offer Matt Allen a contract for the 2003-4 season, as although not the most spectacular of players, Matt formed the bedrock of Cardiff’s defensive efforts in the 2002-3 season. Because of international call ups, Cardiff’s back line in the Celtic Super 12 could be similar to the one that ended last season – DVV, JV, NW, PM. DD, NR and RS with cover from the U21s.

Given the weaknesses up front, strengthening the pack was obviously one of Dai Young’s priorities in preparation for the season ahead. In the front row, Cardiff have suffered all season with the lack of a recognised tight head – losing both Spence and Powell early on in the season. A fired up Ben Evans should make the difference, but that’ll be down to Dai’s motivational skills. Should Mr F Bentos join the club, then our tight head problems could be at an end. John Yapp’s progress this season has been immense and now we need him to concentrate his efforts on his scrummaging skills – where there is still a weakness. With more neutral refs next season, the Baby Faced Assassin may get a fairer chance to show in his first season as a Welsh qualified player.

The return of Fester in the second row will provide much needed power in the scrum as well as another ball carrier. Senekal is another who’s never shirked the hard work, but he still looks a little lightweight for the big time. Despite not having his best season last year, John Tait’s departure will be a big blow, but now’s the time for Tait Modern to take up the challenge and show he can exceed the levels his brother reached. Equally athletic, the Modern version is far more aggressive, and if channelled well, this aggression could provide a necessary edge to the pack. Andy Moore is the third ex-Swansea player to join Cardiff in the closed season and is very much in the Ben Evans mould – excellent when on form, average and ordinary when not. These two will present a challenge for Dai Young.

The back row has been an area where Cardiff have struggled for many seasons, but with a mix of home-grown talent and judged recruitment, could the right balance finally be struck? Other than MW and RST, all the remaining players can play at eight or on the blind side, and in McShane and RST Cardiff have two of the finest young back row players in Wales. Brownrigg’s athleticism combined with the power of Nathan Thomas – Bath’s players of the season last year – mean there’s a mix of pace and power. Appleyard can consider himself lucky to get a contract, and then there’s Crazy Dan. Is the ex-chef ready to cook up another corker of a season for us? Do those knees have any more mileage in them?

Can we survive for the next eight weeks until Leicester arrive at CAP?

Full Backs
Rhys Williams, Donovan Van Vuuren
Wingers
Craig Morgan, Dean Dewdney, Nick Walne, Jonathan Vaughton
Centres
Pieter Muller, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Robinson, Matt Allen
Outside Halves
Iestyn Harris, Nick Robinson
Scrum Halves
Ryan Powell, Richard Smith
Props
Ben Evans, Kenneth Fourie, John Yapp, Darren Crompton
Hookers
Andrew Lewis, Gareth Williams
Second Rows
Andy Moore, Heino Senekal, Craig Quinnell
Back Row
Martyn Williams, Robin Sowden-Taylor, Nathan Thomas, Jim Brownrigg, Dan Baugh, Dan McShane, Rob Appleyard

You won’t win anything with kids ….

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Dear Dai Young

On a day we should be all celebrating the excellent news (see The Times On Line) that Welsh teams are proposing a cross border league with our friendly clubs in England, you drop this bombshell.

Your constant selection of one or two players is now beginning to stink – is there a clique being formed? Why is the Neath game going ahead, when 6 of our bois are involved with the National team?

Let’s start with the selection of a certain Mr Rogers at loose head. Against Biarritz he was constantly last up from any ruck he bothered to get to and then stayed out in the backs without making the effort to make the next ruck.

Is that what you want from your forwards, Dai? Perhaps we could forgive you if the rucking of the Cardiff team was up to scratch, but it is not. This season we have seen how excellent our back line can be with quick ball (thank you Mr John) and how ineffective with slow ball.

Of course the back row is so important when it comes to creating quick ball and protecting what little ball we win. This season has seen woeful protection of the scrum half at rucks and how interesting it has been to see Mr Appleyard standing out in the back line as another turnover goes against us. That is, of course, if he hasn’t knocked the ball on.

Last weeek’s Man of the Match had to be the excellent McShane who showed enthusiasm and vigour when he appeared. Compare this with the apathy showed by the above mentioned players. What message does this give to Dan McShane? That no matter how well he plays, however much enthusiasm and skill he displays, he will not make even the bench for the next game? The same for Payne, who has superb effort levels and is really keen to impress – as you stated.

And then we look at the referee for this Saturday’s encounter – Mr Damage!!!! Mr Homer extraordinaire!!! The most pedantic and whistle happy Scotsman you will meet. So you pick Cardiff’s two biggest penalty machines????!?!?! Rogers and Appleyard aregood for 9 opposition points every week.

Which leads us on to Yellow Cards. We all know Mr Rogers liking for these, but how Appleyard stayed on the pitch in Ulster we will never know. Is this how the club rewards its players for misdemeanours?

Journalists in Wales harp on about how great it is to see Cardiff giving young talent and young homegrown talent a go at last. They conveniently ignore the most important part of the team – the pack! This is your responsibility Mr Young and the selections are not showing improvement.

It is rumoured that many of our backline are out of contract at the end of this season. Perhaps it will be wise for them to move on to a club where they will see the ball and all the good work done by those wishing to see an Anglo-Welsh league will be undone by the poor showing of Cardiff’s forwards.

Please prove us wrong Mr Young. Please tell us that Payne and McShane are injured and unavailable for selection, because the “official” site feed us fans no information.

Yours in Hope of a Cohesive Pack

Cardiff Squad 2002 – 2003 Celtic Super League

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The rumours are strong of a Celtic Super 12 to run next season, after the World Cup in Australia and to coincide with the European Cup and Shield. With four Irish provinces and three Scottish Districts, this makes room for only five Welsh super clubs for the tournament.

With the heavy schedule for our international players already lined up for next season, and Steve Hansen already asking for a limit of 20 club games for our players this season, the pool of players to pick from must be enlarged.

The administrators are already talking to the Union and the representatives from the clubs are also committee men of Llanelli, Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Pontypridd. With Leighton Samuel having resigned from the Western Mail titled “Gang of Six” and Neath being the puppy dogs of the Rottweiler Union, it could be that the five teams are already selected and the playing squads of Neath and Bridgend will be loaned out for the competition.

If the Union and the clubs have sensible discussions (!) the possibilites of allowing the best Welsh qualified players to be exposed to the top level of club rugby in the World are good. Whilst certain playing contracts will have to be negoitiated, the extra pool of players will allow those who represented Wales in the World Cup to be properly rested before the next round of Six Nations whilst still maintaining the club base and tradition.

Neath have only three non-Welsh qualified players in their squad, yet Bridgend have comfortably more. Representatives from both Caerphilly and Ebbw Vale could be drafted in whilst the exciting young talent of the big five could be given a start.

We have pencilled in a potential Celtic 12 squad for Cardiff, with players “loaned” in from Neath and Bridgend. The depth of talent means that, for example, Lee Jarvis could fight for the number 10 spot at Llanelli or perhaps make the Newport team, whilst Shane Williams could fight for a wing spot at Cardiff.

An agreement between the parties could see the number of non-Welsh qualified players limited to two per squad. In our squad we have kept Crazy Dan and John Tait as the “overseas” players. The non qualified players in the squad could play in an expanded Village Domestic League, or be loaned out to Division One clubs to raise the standards below the professional game.

The money generated for the Union during the World Cup could part pay for the player’s contracts during this time. Should we take Jamie Robinson as an example of a player who could be out of contract at the end of this season and will be in the Welsh squad for the World Cup, then the Union can contract him from May to November. He will then be free from any club pressures during this time and be free to represent Wales and train etc under the total guidance of Steve Hansen.

His contract will then be picked up again by Cardiff in November to play in either the Celtic 12 or European Cup or both.

Of course there will be a great expense involved in this exercise and the man with the most power may well be Leighton Samuel himself. Players contracts will have to be negotiated and the fixture list will be a nightmare. Yet with the World Cup running well into the British season the potential number of games is seriously limited anyway. Nobody wants to see “top flight” rugby without the Internationals.

Full Backs
Rhys Williams, Matt James
Wingers
Craig Morgan, Liam Roberts, Nick Walne, Shane Williams
Centres
Gareth Thomas, Daffydd James, Jamie Robinson, Nicky Robinson
Outside Halves
Iestyn Harris, Nick McLeod
Scrum Halves
Ryan Powell, Richard Smith, Huw Harries
Props
Spencer John, Kenneth Fourie, Martyn Madden, Ben Evans
Hookers
Andrew Lewis, Greg Woods, Steve Jones
Second Rows
Adam Jones, Luke Tait, Andy Moore, John Tait, Chris Stamatakis
Back Row
Nathan Budgett, Martyn Williams, Robin Sowden Taylor, Nathan Bonner-Evans, Steve Tandy, Dan Baugh

Give Youth a Chance

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Dear Rudy,

A Happy New Year to you!

New Year is traditionally a time for New Year’s resolutions, so here’s some ideas for you when you draw up your list for 2002.

When you arrived at Cardiff Arms Park you inherited a poorly coached and poorly motivated squad, riddled with serious injuries to important players and faced with a fixture list that allowed little time for preparation.

Pre-season, you promised us an open style of rugby with youth given a free hand and a low penalty count in every game we play.

At present our open style is based more on the limitations of the outside half – he can’t read a game and just shovels all sort of bad ball onwards. In league, this may be acceptable, but he’s still way off the mark in ensuring victory for the team. Would we have lost in Glasgow and drawn at Bridgend if Jinx had been playing?

As for giving youth a chance, sadly so far this season has been one of missed opportunities.

Our back row injuries should have been a signal for Dan MacShane to play more games for the first XV, or even Luke Tait to get a chance. However, journeymen like Mounier and Appleyard have been preferred. Whilst Appleyard’s commitment has been admirable, he’s about as effective as a chocolate teapot at openside and the progress of Sowden-Taylor has been stifled. Greg Woods is another who needs to get more games under his belt. Why not give the youngsters 20 minutes at least?

Turning to the backs, we have an excellent player in Owain Ashman who is also not getting first XV games. He is surely a better player than Henry jnr and represents the future of the club. Furthermore, Allen in the centre is so inconsistent – when will we see the Robinson brothers in tandem?

Cardiff fans have been excited by the emergence of these youngsters yet they have not been seen. Other youngsters lie waiting in the wings, yet we plead with you to give Ashman and Sowden-Taylor their chance.

Turning to the question of penalty count, there is clearly so much more to do at the club. Whilst the standard of refereeing week in week out in the Village League is no better than frustrating, players’ discipline is poor. We are giving too many unnecessary penalties away. Furthermore, unforced errors due a lack of concentration are costing us points.

Complacency is clearly our biggest threat and the signs are already there of players getting picked “automatically” and not being forced to play for their places. The basic skills in the back line – passing and kicking – are still dreadfully poor, and this surely reflects on a sloppy approach and poor discipline in training.

Whilst the squad is not yours and you have undoubtedly inherited the complacency of previous seasons, you’ve also inherited a classy squad with a good mix of youth and experience.

Please make the following resolutions for 2002 …

1. Discipline – players must not give away meaningless penalties and possession through sloppy play.

2. Increased competition – nobody gets picked on reputation …. they have to earn the right to wear the jersey.

3. Youth – give youth a chance!

4. Away wins – some of us follow the club all over Europe ….. we put in the effort away from home and we expect your players to do the same!

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.

This season’s Heinken Cup Squad

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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.

Full Backs
Rhys Williams (21), Paul Jones (23)
Wingers
Craig Hudson (23), Andrew Henry (21), Craig Morgan (23), Anthony Sullivan (32)
Centres
Matt Allen (28), Jamie Robinson (21), Pieter Muller (32)
Outside Halves
Nick Robinson (19), Iestyn Harris (24)
Scrum Halves
Robert Howley (31), Andy Booth (33), Chris Miller (19)
Props
Spencer John (28), David Young (34), Kenneth Fourie (24), Peter Rogers (32), Andrew Lewis (28) Gary Powell (21)
Hookers
Jonathan Humphreys (32), Greg Woods (20)
Second Rows
Adam Jones (21), Craig Quinnell (26), John Tait (28)
Back Row
Dan McShane (21), Martyn Williams (26), Emyr Lewis (33), Rob Appleyard (29), Semo Sititi (27), Gregori Kacala (35), Francois Mounier (23)
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