Endless possibilities: Cardiff Blues back row options

Cardiff Blues

Cardiff Blues‘ head coach John Mulvihill will have plenty of back rowers to choose from when the new season gets underway, with eight players in total to choose from.

From Wales internationals Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins to up and coming young talents such as Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham, Wales’ capital region really are spoilt for choice.

What will each player offer to Mulvihill’s side? Last Word takes a look.

Olly Robinson

Since arriving at the Arms Park in 2017 Robinson quickly become a fan favourite. He was named Guinness Pro14 ‘Tackle Machine’ during his debut campaign and has since signed a long-term deal in January to remain at the outfit.

Josh Navidi

Described earlier in the year as one of the “Blues’ best performers over the last decade” by Mulvihill, Navidi is a powerful runner who offers just as much going forward as he does defensively.

Navidi has quickly become an integral part of the Wales squad and his experience at international level has helped him become a leader at the region. Alongside scrum-half Lloyd Williams, Navidi is the current longest serving player at the club and will act as a great mentor to younger players coming through the academy.

Ellis Jenkins

Jenkins has always been a solid performer for Cardiff Blues. He’s a huge hitter and extremely athletic with the ability to cross the gain line numerous times during a game.

Despite all he offers on the pitch, Jenkins has not played a minute of rugby in over two years after suffering an injury on Wales’ tour of New Zealand in 2018. Even if Jenkins is fully fit it will take the flanker some time to regain match fitness.

James Botham

After suffering a hamstring injury in November against Benetton Treviso, Botham returned to fitness during lockdown, putting in a huge performance against the Ospreys in the final game of the season.

He rose to the occasion to battle Wales and Lions player Justin Tipuric, making an impressive 17 tackles and eight carries whilst also offering support to the ball carriers. Having represented Wales Sevens, his quick pace will only be a benefit to the side, offering attacking support in the wider channels.

 

Shane Lewis-Hughes

Lewis-Hughes has had many standout performances this season, earning turnovers in crucial times in games and offering a defensive presence.

Having played alongside Botham at U18 and U20 level, there is an opportunity for the Blues to nurture a strong back row partnership between these two players, with Mulvihill applauding the duos effort against the Ospreys.

Josh Turnbull

Turnbull has been Mr Consistent for Wales’ capital region since joining in 2014. The utility forward would be a safe choice, making the fifth most tackles in the league this season with 174.

Will Boyde

Signing Boyde from the Scarlets was a huge steal for the region. Mulvihill described Boyde as a player that really suits their style of play as an effective ball-carrier. The versatile, physical defender works effortlessly over the ball, earning 12 turnovers this season.

Sam Moore

Following the departure of rugby veteran Nick Williams, a huge void has been left at number 8. Head coach Mulvihill has been searching for a ball-carrying back rower to fill that void and he has possibly found it in Moore.

Described as a great player with enormous potential by Mulvihill, it is understandable why the strong ball carrier was named in England’s 2018 Six Nations squad.

 

Mulvihill is spoilt for choice with back row options with both experience and youth to choose from.

Ultimately, Cardiff Blues are very strong in this position, to the extent that a Welsh international player could be left out on a weekly basis.

It will be interesting to see who Mulvihill selects in the team for the Blues’ opening Pro14 fixture.

 

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