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Three academy stars sign contracts

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PRO 14    

Much fancied Welsh age grade prop among three academy stars to pen first senior contracts at Cardiff

Three of Cardiff Blues’ rising stars have put pen-to-paper on their first senior deals with Wales’ Capital Region.

Forwards Keiron Assiratti, James Botham and Shane Lewis-Hughes have pledged their future to Cardiff Blues and will continue their development at the Arms Park.

Highly-rated tight-head prop, Assiratti, has already racked up 25 first team appearances, having made his debut during the 2016-17 season.

He has made six appearances to date in the current campaign, while also turning out for Cardiff Blues A and Pontypridd.

Assiratti has represented Wales through all the age-grades where he has forged a reputation as not only a devastating scrummager but a mobile and skilful ball-carrier.

He is one of several promising front-row forwards coming through the ranks at Cardiff Blues with Dillon Lewis, Corey Domachowski and Rhys Carré all under the age of 23.

Botham made his Guinness PRO14 debut earlier this season, against Connacht, and has been tipped for a bright future.

The Wales under-20 international comes from rich sporting pedigree as the son of former Cardiff RFC and England wing Liam, and grandson of cricket legend Sir Ian.

Botham, who was born in Cardiff while his father played for the Blue and Blacks, is the latest in a long line of exciting flankers to graduate from the Cardiff Blues academy, having attended the famous Sedbergh School in the North West and represented Wales at Under-18s, 20s and Sevens.

Meanwhile, Lewis-Hughes has been rewarded for his impressive form with a long-term senior contract at Cardiff Blues.

The versatile forward, who specialises at blindside flanker, has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Cardiff Arms Park having been handed his Heineken Champions Cup debut at the start of the year against Glasgow Warriors.

He has featured in every game since, taking his overall tally of senior appearances to 14, and enhanced his already formidable reputation.

Twenty-five of the current first team squad are academy graduates with a new generation establishing themselves in the Blues’ first team squad.

Head coach John Mulvihill is delighted to see three home-grown talent commit their future to the region and has been thoroughly impressed by the progress of the academy trio.

Mulvihill said: “Keiron has had some big moments with the first team this season particularly doing very well in his Heineken Champions Cup games against Lyon.

“He is a great competitor both in training and in games and continues to improve his set piece skill working with Dillion Lewis, Dmitri Arhip and Scott Andrews.

“He’s most definitely a player with a big future at the Cardiff Blues and in time internationally providing he remains focused and continues his hard work.

“James is a very talented young athletic player who will continue to improve working alongside some of the best back row players in Wales. The competition will be of huge benefit to James and he will have a lot more opportunities in the future.

“He carriers well, competes hard on the floor and brings good enthusiasm and energy to our group. He is yet another academy product with a very bright future in the game.

“Shane has taken his opportunities well this year and has had real impact in some of our biggest games this season.

“He is a very focused individual with a very bright future who prepares each week to best the best he can be come game day.

“He brings real energy and the right physicality to make a big impact for the Cardiff Blues.”

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Much fancied Welsh age grade prop among three academy stars to pen first senior contracts at Cardiff