THE Cardiff Blues are set for another significant structural change when the region takes complete control over Cardiff RFC.
The news follows last November’s announcement that the Blues would end their policy of providing players to their feeder clubs free of charge, after head coach Danny Wilson said players should feed up and not down.
Cardiff RFC used to be run by a rugby section of Cardiff Athletic Club, but now the Blues are set to take over the Welsh Premiership side.
Cardiff Athletic Club and Cardiff RFC are in negotiations about a long-term lease for the Arms Park. This would potentially allow the Blues to redevelop the Arms Park, and maximise it’s commercial potential.
Pontypridd RFC, who’s funding was cut by the Blues in November, has objected to the change and condemns the move as an attack on their position within Welsh rugby. As a competitive club in the Welsh Premiership, many Pontypridd RFC fans object to the Welsh Premiership as a purely developmental competition. Despite this, Pontypridd RFC, like Cardiff RFC, will remain a feeder club to the Blues.
However, for far too long the purpose of the Welsh Premiership has been shrouded in confusion. Some clubs use it as a development tool, whereas others view it as a means to win silverware.
Controversial as it may seem, the Blues’ decision to take over Cardiff RFC and to cease funding to Pontypridd should be applauded. The change will provide more opportunities and pitch experience for talented academy players and the odd senior player in need of some game time.
The Scarlets have used Llanelli RFC in a similar vein for years. They understand the purpose of the Welsh Premiership as a development tool and Llanelli RFC has suffered poor results as a consequence.
The Premiership should be used solely as a development competition, with results secondary. The fact that the Blues have taken direct control of Cardiff RFC should be the blueprint for all the regions.
In an ideal world the regions should be in complete control of all of their feeder clubs in order to dictate when and where their academy players play. This would allow the semi-professional Welsh Premiership to fulfil its potential of being a vibrant and successful development competition.
The counter argument is that if results become secondary, the Welsh Premiership might lose its competitive edge. However, if the regional A sides can find a meaningful competition to play in, that gap would then be bridged and the Premiership free to become purely a development competition.
For too long the Cardiff Blues have walked straight from one disaster to another, with poor recruitment and coaching plaguing the region. In Danny Wilson, the Blues have a man who will look to fix the root of the problem, rather than look for a quick fix.
Wilson’s attention to detail as a coach is well respected within Welsh rugby circles. The former Wales under 20’s coach has already improved the Blues’ set-piece game.
One of Wilson’s priorities should be to promote promising youngsters like Tomos Williams, Ethan Lewis and Dillon Lewis. It is far better to have young, aspiring players with great potential on the bench than average journeymen with little potential for improvement in their game.
First team recruitment has also been more positive than previous seasons. Good signings include Saracens prop Rhys Gill, talented Welsh back Matthew Morgan, ball carrying number eight Nick Williams and Scarlets number ten Steve Shingler. The Blues are also expected to sign Scarlets pair Kirby Myhill and George Earle – two players that Wilson knows well from his time at the Scarlets.
Undoubtedly there is still work to be done on the recruitment front but the latest signings are an improvement on signings in recent seasons. Whisper it quietly but the sleeping giants of Welsh rugby may finally be about to wake up and realise their potential.