15 for 10: Cardiff Blues : The Blues struggled domestically in this decade, failing to make the title playoffs at any point. But their fans have had two European Challenge Cup triumphs to celebrate in the same period and some serious stars to watch.
RugbyPass has put together a team of the decade, a mix of stardust, regional servants, and exciting youngsters.
Here’s our 15 for 10: Cardiff Blues:
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15. Leigh Halfpenny
He’s a Scarlet now but it was in the colours of the Cardiff Blues that Halfpenny played his best rugby. He was rock-solid in defence, flying in attack, and racked up 568 points with in his time there. It was no wonder he was shortlisted for IRB Player of the Year in 2013 or that Toulon came knocking shortly after.
14. Alex Cuthbert
It’s easy to forget now, with Cuthbert having become a joke to some in recent years, but the big winger was one of the most lethal finishers in the world in his earlier days at the region. Even with a noticeable loss of form towards the end, he scored 46 tries for Blues in his time there.
13. Ray Lee-Lo
The versatile Samoan centre, who won the region’s Player of the Year award for the 2016/17 season, has put in more than one hundred shifts for Blues and narrowly edges Willis Halaholo.
12. Jamie Roberts
The former winger may have left in 2013, with his final seasons disrupted by injuries and international call-ups, but his performances as the region claimed their first European trophy are more than enough to gain him a spot here.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 15, 2020
11. Tom James
The region’s record try-scorer, with 60 successful efforts, is an obvious choice here. A hugely popular figure in Welsh rugby, his recent openness around his mental health issue has been as inspirational as his earlier on-field performances.
10. Ceri Sweeney
There have been some talented No10s over the decade at Blues but none have really nailed down their spot as an icon. Nicky Robinson, Dan Parks, and Gareth Anscombe all had moments but Sweeney just about edges them all. Will Jarrod Evans cement his place going forward?
9. Lloyd Williams
Tomos Williams has overtaken him in the pecking order and is a thrilling talent but his older namesake is second on the list of appearances and third on the list of try scorers in their history. He is better known outside the region for an appearance on the wing and that assist in Wales’ RWC 2015 pool game against England but he has all the qualities of a good scrum-half.
1. Gethin Jenkins
A modern great of Welsh rugby, Jenkins redefined the role of loosehead prop. We are getting used to all-singing, all-dancing props like Mako Vunipola and Tadgh Furlong but Jenkins was the pace-setter with his outstanding all-round game. When he left for New Zealand, Steve Hansen said Jenkins was the player he wishes he could take with him.
— gethin jenkins (@gethinjenkins1) May 14, 2018
2. Matthew Rees
He captained Scarlets, Wales, and Blues, was first choice in all three games on the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour, and racked up nearly 400 games over his career, despite taking time out when he was diagnosed with cancer. Rees was some player.
3. Taufa’ao Filise
Cardiff Blues have been a little light on traditional, grunt-work tight five players but instead have had a number of lovely, skillful options up front. Filise is a perfect example. Signed off for the region after 255 appearances, a regional record, in their European Rugby Challenge Cup final victory in 2018.
4. Bradley Davies
A gnarly, fight-starting, grunt work-welcoming lock in exactly the mould that Blues could do more of, Davies came through the academy to become a mainstay of the senior side. Like so many others in Welsh rugby, he left for more glamorous pastures before returning in the past few years.
5. Seb Davies
There are a number of contenders for the second lock position and some would give it to Deiniol Jones, with him having made the most appearances. However, Davies has played 63 games at the age of 23 and has put in some very memorable performances. He edges it.
6. Josh Navidi
At one point, Navidi seemed destined to go down as an outstanding regional servant who never stepped up to international level but he has since become a fixture in the Wales side too. Comfortable anywhere across the back row and never stops working, no matter how huge the odds are against him.
7. Sam Warburton
There might be some who feel like Warburton was more of a visiting professor at times, with his injuries and international duties, but the man himself was always clear about how much his home region meant to him, turning down lucrative offers elsewhere and putting in 175 appearances. Ellis Jenkins is unlucky to miss out but Warburton deserves his spot.
8. Nick Williams
His importance to the region was shown in the moving scenes before Christmas when they paid for his mother to come over from New Zealand and watch him play for the first time in Europe. The tributes from his teammates said everything about his contribution to the side over the years. He has also been hugely influential developing the regions’ impressive young back rowers.
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