The Cardiff Blues have quietly gone about their transfer business in the last two close-seasons by making a series of shrewd signings. The addition of Josh Adams and Hallam Amos last year added firepower to an already potent Blues backline but there was a feeling that there was a soft underbelly to the capital side in the wake of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Tao Filise retiring so reinforcements needed to be made up front.

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The Cardiff Blues coach John Mulvihill deserves credit for his powers of persuasion and he has done enough to encourage Cory Hill back to his home region and on Tuesday it was announced that jumbo-sized loosehead prop Rhys Carre was heading back to Cardiff after an eventful gap year at Saracens.

With promising young No 8 Sam Moore signed up in the New Year, the Blues look to be only a couple of signings from a side that could challenge at the top of the Pro14, after flattering to deceive in recent seasons, so what exactly is their best XV? RugbyPass plays selector as is pleasantly surprised at the glut of talent available with 12 full-internationals in their starting line-up.

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The former England captain on his move to the MLR in the United States

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1. Rhys Carre

There was a sense of frustration in Wales when Rhys Carre headed to the European and Premiership title winners last summer, but a lot can happen in eight months. Saracens have endured a chastening fall from grace and the clarion calls for the 6ft 3in, 21st stone loosehead to come home have grown in recent months until this week’s announcement Carre was coming back to the ‘Diff. At 22, he’s still raw but his prodigious ball-carrying has already seen him win eight Welsh caps and you would assuage there are plenty more are to come.

2. Kristian Dacey

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Easy to spot with his eye-catching ponytail bobbing round as he hits ball-carriers, Dacey has been at the Blues since 2011 and will turn 31 later this month. A part of the furniture after 158 appearances at the region, he is mobile, runs hard and has a knack for scoring ties with 26 in his time at the Blues. Capped by Wales in 2015, Dacey will expect more pressure on his place from Liam Belcher and Kirby Myhill in the coming months.

3. Dillon Lewis

Another local boy from Church Village, at 24, Dillon Lewis has become a mainstay of the Welsh squad with 26 caps and enjoyed an extended period in the starting jersey this year after the injury-enforced absence of Tomas Francis. Still honing his trade at the set-piece at the highest-level, Lewis has an eye-catching work rate for a tighthead and regularly goes beyond the 50-minute mark that most front-rows are hooked. Against France, he competed at 40 rucks in 70 minutes on the field and he brings the same endeavour to the Blues week-in, week-out. A valuable asset to the Blues.

4. Cory Hill

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It was a coup for the Blues to lure the Dragons captain Cory Hill away from Rodney Parade, but for Hill it was simply a case of coming home. From Maesycoed, near Pontypridd, the second-row was released by his home region at 21 and since he has proved to be an operator of international class, with 28 caps for Wales. Hill’s leadership and technical excellence in the lineout will be a huge boon at the Arms Park. The lock is able to cover blindside adeptly when required.

5. Seb Davies

Quietly-spoken, Seb Davies has made steady progress since making his debut for the Blues in 2014. The 24-year old has soft-hands and an imposing 6ft 6in, 18st 4lb frame, which has meant he has been played at No 8 on occasion. The hope is that he can kick on and add to his six Welsh caps but first Davies must swat away the considerable attentions of Filo Paulo the abrasive Tongan lock and Rory Thornton, the former Wales U20 lock for a place in the starting XV.

Seb Davies

Seb Davies takes lineout ball for the Cardiff Blues (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

6. Josh Navidi

Seemingly indestructible in his 173 appearances for the Blues, Josh Navidi had to show patience while Sam Warburton, Dan Lydiate and Justin Tipuric dominated the Welsh 6 and 7 shirt but since 2017, he has grabbed his opportunity with both mitts and made 23 of his 24 appearances for Wales. He has shown a wider audience a level of consistency that Blues supporters had been witnessing since making his debut in 2009. Low-slung, immensely powerful at the breakdown and explosive when breaking off the back of the scrum, at 29, Navidi is respected throughout Welsh rugby. Shane Lewis-Hughes brings a rangier defensive option in the mould of Dan Lydiate when Navidi is on Test duty.

7. Ellis Jenkins

In November 2018, Ellis Jenkins put in a man of the match performance for Wales against future World Champions South Africa but ended the game with a horrific knee injury and hasn’t played since. Captain of the Cardiff Blues, another local boy from Church Village, had made 104 appearances for the Blues before injury and finally the portents are positive he can resume his career. Another turnover specialist with a high-workrate, soft-hands and excellent technique, there is an avalanche of goodwill that Jenkins retains his Blues shirt and in time, the Welsh jersey. The arch jackaler Olly Robinson is on hand and expected to keep him honest, along with the versatile Will Boyde.

8. Nick Williams

Nick Williams has added a huge amount of value in the No 8 shirt as one of the Premier ball-carrying forwards in the Pro14. At 36, and after 77 appearances in the shirt, if he carries on for one more season, he will likely need some back-up which is why the Blues have signed 21-year-old former England U20 No 8 Sam Moore from the Sale Sharks. Moore’s signature was highly sought after and the hope is that the son of former Wales lock Steve, will shake off some niggling injuries to excel in a regional shirt.

9. Tomos Williams

Naturally gifted, the former Wales international basketball player can do things on a rugby field that few others can even attempt. His offloading skills are You Tube-friendly but the terrier from Treorchy has added bite and brings an extra edge around the fringes. Fleet of foot, he is a threat in broken-field play and has astute kicking game. His talent had led to calls for him to be Wales’ first-choice scrum-half as Wales head to France in 2023. He has a very able deputy in Lloyd Williams who brings 210 regional appearances worth of experience with him.

10. Jarrod Evans

Jarrod Evans is a throwback. At 5ft 9in, and 13st dripping wet, he’s not the biggest of fly-halves, but he is robust enough and has a Willo-the-Wisp type quality to ghost past defenders with a shimmy of the hips and a burst of acceleration. For those old enough, there are shades of Cliff Morgan about the Pontypridd-born playmaker. Like Williams inside him, he is able to conjure up moments of brilliance and the nuts and bolts of his game are improving with every season.

11. Josh Adams

The Premiership’s leading scorer with Worcester in 2016-17, and a breakthrough act with Wales the following year, it was only a matter of time before the Carmarthen-born flyer was lured back to Wales. Fortunately for the Cardiff Blues, they were the lucky recipients of one of the world’s in-form wings, who scored more tries than any other player during 2019. Although the World Cup, injury and the pandemic has stopped Adams in his tracks, with five tries in his first six appearances for the region, it would suggest there are plenty more to come.

12. Ben Thomas

Next season may see a changing of the guard at inside-centre with Ray Lee-lo at 34 entering the latter years of his career.  Thomas is only 21, but he enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Cardiff Blues until the lockdown. A former fly-half, Thomas has the skills to play as a second-receiver and vision to put carriers into space and cultured kicking game could see him as a perfect foil to Jarrod Evans.

13. Willis Halaholo

Auckland-born, but now qualified for Wales, Halaholo was selected for the match against the Barbarians before incurring a serious knee-injury. The popular midfielder has been a big success after pitching up from the Hurricanes in 2016. One of the few players with the footwork to get the Arms Park crowd on their feet, the hot-stepper has a strong fend and enough power to bust a tackle or go-round the first-up defender. The 29-year-old adds an element of unpredictability to the Blues backline.

Owen Lane

Owen Lane adds genuine firepower to the Blues backline (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

14. Owen Lane

The ‘Lane train’ is only 22 but has already scored 23 tries in 47 appearances for the Blues. The former flatmate of Carre, Lane played his youth rugby as an outside-centre but his finishing ability and raw power have seen him kept him on the flank for the foreseeable future. Lane still has some defensive positioning to iron-out but his match-winning ability saw him called up for Wales out in Japan and he’s expected to be part of the Wales set-up for the long-term.

15. Hallam Amos

Another arrival in the close-season last summer, Hallam Amos spent six years at the Dragons before moving West to Cardiff where he is hoping to fulfil his potential. After making his Wales debut at 18, he has added only 22 caps through a mix of injury and patchy form, but at 25, the Blues will hope to see him in his prime years. Physically, Amos has it all. At 6ft 1in and 15st, he has a turn of speed, power-fend, a decent kicking and offloading game, all he needs now is to show some consistency.

Replacements:

  1. Dimitri Arhip
  2. Kirby Myhill
  3. Rhys Gill
  4. Filo Paulo
  5. Shane Lewis-Hughes
  6. Lloyd Williams
  7. Garyn Smith
  8. Matthew Morgan

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