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Cardiff Blues And The Season Ahead - The Back Row

By Craig Muncey
August 8 2018

The final part of the series looks at the highly contested positions of the back row. Even with such a great player as Sam Warburton missing from the playing ranks, Cardiff Blues go into the new season with a number of top-class players looking to make up the 6,7 and 8 positions. Here are the players in no particular order.

Josh Navidi

A breakthrough season internationally for Josh last season, which backed up what all us Cardiff Blues fans have known for a number of years. Josh Navidi is an outstanding backrower in whatever position you want him to play. Can play right across the back row. Good in defence, excellent at the breakdown and a very strong ball carrier. Is quick of foot and his rugby intelligence in my view is underplayed. Has a battle for a position in the Welsh back row and Cardiff Blues, but is more than capable of getting a regular place in both.

Nick Williams

Big Nick had an outstanding season last season and seemed to get better as the season went on. A wrecking ball when has possession of a rugby ball with when required, a lovely offloading game, some big hits in defence and when he gets in position on opposition ball at a ruck, is so difficult to get off the ball legally. Is a hugely physical player in the tight. Cardiff Blues are a better side when he is in the starting lineup. Will his body hold up over a long season? We shall see, let's hope so.

Ellis Jenkins

With the retirement of Sam Warburton, the rise of Ellis Jenkins to be the regular wearer of the 7 red shirt of Wales may happen a lot sooner. Simply a superb player. Good in defence. Fantastic at the ruck, good in possession and where his ability is a step above many others is his footballing skills and his rugby intelligence. He makes the right decision so often in defence and attack. Chosen as captain for this season for Cardiff Blues and is a natural leader as has shown at many different age groups. Expecting yet another big season.

Ollie Robinson

Yet another outstanding backrower. Robbo has been magnificent for Cardiff Blues since joining from Bristol. Tackle-wise, I would say he is the best tackler in the squad, hardly ever misses a tackle and his technique is outstanding. Very strong in defence and a good ball carrier. Another backrower who is fantastic at stealing opposition ball at the ruck. A real workhorse.

Samu Manoa

Another star name recruit for the new season. Manoa has joined from Toulon and is a huge presence on a rugby field. Can play lock or 8, and going by reports is seen as a replacement for Nick Williams around the 60-minute mark on games to come on and carry on from Big Nick in terms of physicality, ball carrying and putting in huge hits in defence. Going to be interesting to see how his game has changed from a few years ago with Northampton when he was one of the best back five forwards playing in Europe at that time. Is now 33 years of age. I cannot wait to see him play for Cardiff Blues.

Sion Bennett

When first played for Cardiff Blues looked a real star in the making in the back row, but injuries have curtailed his progression somewhat. Has a good turn of pace and a good ball carrier with a happy knack of scoring tries. Will he break back into the team? Has a lot of competition but if we see the player we saw initially then it is possible.

Shane Lewis-Hughes

A young backrower who has shown up well at age group level. A hard-working player who looks like his long-term future will be at 6. One to keep an eye out for.

Jim Botham

Another young backrower who has shown up well at age group levels. Has a famous name and bound to have had pressure on him his whole young life being part of a famous sporting family. Looks a good player with a bit of an edge to his game, and when given a chance will want to make the most of that opportunity.

Alun Lawrence

Just turned 20 years of age and does look a player full of promise. Similarly to Lewis-Hughes and Botham, can only aid their skills working alongside the more experienced players on a regular basis. Yet another to keep an eye out for.

In terms of other options who could get game time for Cardiff Blues in the back row are Josh Turnbull, Macauley Cook, Callum Bradbury and Seb Davies. A bit further down the list but if injuries and international call-ups hit resource then two players who are with Cardiff RFC this season and have experience at Pro level are Morgan Allen and Rory Pitman. Both have had their fair share of injuries and are well-travelled players, but both have shown at times, they have the ability to play professional level.

There you have my thoughts on the back row. A hugely competitive area for Cardiff Blues and one of real strength.

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Cardiff Blues And The Season Ahead - The Back Row
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17/08/2018 14:26
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