Cardiff Blues are having an inconsistent season and currently sit ninth in the GUINNESS PRO12 table with 33 points after 15 games.
Despite an impressive win over Ulster last time out, a top four place this season now looks out of reach, but they will be looking to consolidate pride with a top-half finish, having failed to do so in any of the last five seasons.
However there have been big wins against league leaders Connacht at home and rivals the Scarlets at home on New Year’s Day.
Disappointing losses at Benetton Treviso and against Newport Gwent Dragons at home in August gives an indication of the club’s struggles.
Shining light Cory Allen has unfortunately been ruled out for the next few months, picking up an ankle in the 13-14 defeat to Leinster two weekends ago.
But head coach Danny Wilson hailed the impact of youth last time out against Ulster as prop Brad Thyer and scrum-half Tomos Williams both made their first GUINNESS PRO12 starts.
A new era
Cardiff Blues represents rugby union in the city of Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan, Rhondda Cyon Taf, Merthy Tydfiil and south Powys and was formed in 2003.
After fellow Welsh franchise the Celtic Warriors disbanded in 2004, the Blues were fortunate to go on to inherit many of their players including Gethin Jenkins, Robert Sidoli and Ceri Sweeney.
The current Blues head coach is Danny Wilson. Wilson replaced Kiwi Mark Hammett, who left during last season six months into his three-year contract, heading home to New Zealand for personal reasons. It was a disappointing season for the Blues last time out, finishing tenth and only ahead of the two Italian sides Benetton Treviso and Zebre.
Wilson has previously had spells as forwards coach at Newport Gwent Dragons, the Scarlets and Bristol. He was also head coach of the Wales Under-20s side that came third at the 2012 IRB Junio World Championships.
Aled Summerhill has caught the eye as part of the Cardiff Blues next generation
Wilson will be hoping to blood more youngsters at Cardiff and so far the signs are promising, with hooker Ethan Lewis and outside back Aled Summerhill, both 21, among others turning in some impressive performances so far this season.
Greatest season: 06/07 season
The Blues have twice come second in the PRO12, in consecutive seasons (2006/2007 and 2007/2008), back when it was the Magners League.
However they came closest to winning the competition in 2006/2007, when they were pipped to the title by the Ospreys.
Ben Blair was signed before the season began and was the third top points scorer in the league with 160 points. The 06/07 season saw a number of future Wales internationals break into the first-team, including Chris Czekaj, Bradley Davies and Tom James.
Ben Blair in action for the Cardiff Blues back in 2008
The Blues won 13 out of their 20 fixtures, drawing one and losing six. They finished one point behind eventual winners the Ospreys.
Their biggest win of the season came in mid-April when they beat Edinburgh 48-0 at the Cardiff Arms Park, with tries from Andy Powell, Mike Phillips, Nick Macleod, two from Ben Blair and three from Rhys Williams.
The 38-10 loss away to Scarlets in the second last round of fixtures put a dint in their title hopes and is seen as the turning point in the title race, as the Ospreys got a losing bonus point away at Glasgow which proved to be the difference.
The title came down to the last match of the season, and the Blues did all they could with a bonus point win over Leinster, who were heading the table before kick-off.
However that left the door ajar for the Ospreys, who beat the Border Reivers 16-24 at Netherdale the next day to seal the championship.
All-time greatest XV
15. Ben Blair
Blair and Xavier Rush are seen as the franchise’s best ever overseas signings. He is the region’s leading points scorer with 1,078, and was an absolute steal at the time he arrived from the Highlanders. He only managed to win four All-Blacks caps, remarkable for a man of his talents.
14. Leigh Halfpenny
Halfpenny was initially snubbed by the Ospreys for being ‘too small’, and how they would regret that decision. Although now known as one of the best full-backs in the world, he played some of his best rugby on the wing for the Blues, scoring two tries in the EDF Energy Cup final in 2009.
13. Tom Shanklin
Shanklin won the Grand Slam with Wales in 2005 and 2008, and during that time he was regularly contributing to the Blues. Known for his pace, power and direct running lines, Shanklin played 114 times for the Blues, scoring 28 tries.
12. Jamie Roberts
A product of the Blues’ academy, Roberts made his Wales debut in 2008, the same season he made his Cardiff Blues debut.
He formed a powerful centre partnership with Casey Laulala for three seasons, who also deserves special mention for not making this team. Roberts has gone on to become Wales’s most-capped centre and formed a key part of the 2009 and 2013 Lions tours.
11. Tom James
While no-one will forget Jonah Lomu’s stint on the left wing for the Blues, James is the region’s all-time leading try scorer with 47.
He returned to the region last summer after two years with the Exeter Chiefs. His recent form has earned him a recall to the Wales squad after a six-year absence, and he appeared in their first two games of the campaign against Ireland and Scotland.
10. Nicky Robinson
Robinson amassed over 1,000 points for the region between 2001-09 before moving to Gloucester. He played 13 times for Wales and is unfortunate not to have won more caps. He now plies his trade with Oyonnax in the top 14 in France after spells in England with Gloucester, Wasps and Bristol.
9. Mike Phillips
Wales’s most-capped scrum half spent two years with the Blues after joining in 2005. He formed a great half-back understanding with Nicky Robinson in that time.
Tall and powerful for a scrum-half, Phillips made his breakthrough in the Wales team during his time at Cardiff.
Jenkins is Wales’s most-capped player and has won the majority of his caps while at the Blues. After a successful season in France with Toulon, during which he won the Heineken Cup, Jenkins returned to Cardiff in 2013.
He is a magnificent servant to the region and is looking to extend his deal through to the end of next season, even though he turns 36 in November.
2. T Rhys Thomas
Thomas is still second in the club’s all time appearances in the PRO12 with 182. Now at Newport Gwent Dragons after a stint with Wasps, the hard-working hooker was a fan’s favourite at the Blues.
3. Taufa’ao Filise
A Cardiff Blues stalwart, he has made 210 PRO12 appearances, the most of all-time at the club. The huge Tongan is an extremely strong scrummager and is versatile, having the capacity to play at both tighthead and loosehead.
4. Paul Tito
The ginger lock played more than 100 times for the region after arriving in 2007 from the Hurricanes.
He was appointed captain the season after and in his first season as skipper he lifted the EDF Energy Cup, beating Gloucester 50-12 at Twickenham. He also won man of the match for that game after a terrific all-round display.
5. Bradley Davies
Davies played more than 100 times for the Blues before leaving for Wasps in 2014. A great asset in the lineout as well as a fantastic ball carrier, Davies is now a regular in the Wales second row.
6. Sam Warburton
Warburton is the current Wales and British & Irish Lions captain, and holds the record for the most caps as Welsh captain.
He was the first Welsh skipper of the Lions since Phil Bennett in 1977 for the 2013 tour, leading the Lions to a series win for the first time in 16 year.
His game time for the Blues these days is limited due to injury and international commitments, but his contribution to the region on and off the field cannot be underestimated.
7. Martyn Williams
Williams regularly produced stunning performances for the Blues and for his country meaning Warburton has to settle for a spot at blindside flanker.
He won man of the 2005 Six Nations and went on to win 100 caps for his country. Unfortunately may be remembered for his costly miss in the extraordinary penalty shoot out of the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final against Leicester.
Nevertheless, ‘Nugget’ remains one of the best players to ever pull on a Cardiff Blues jersey.
8. Xavier Rush
Rush moved to Cardiff Arms Park after several successful seasons at the Auckland Blues and eight caps for the All Blacks.
He spent eight years at Cardiff, including one as a coach, and captained the side for the majority of it. He was a cult hero at the franchise and produced some world-class performances during his time in the Welsh capital.
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