Much that Danny Wilson does and says is very impressive, so the recent news that there will be fewer contracted players in the seasons to come is well received. Wilson is on the same path that Alec Evans took when he arrived at the time, in that he also recognised there were far too many players at training sessions thus diluting the quality of the work to be done.
Also, in the modern professional age, too many players means too much cost so cutting the ‘never will be’ players from the wage bill is nothing but sensible. It’s worth noting that 41 players need to be registered for the European Competitions, so that is the benchmark for squad sizes.
When Rudy Joubert arrived at the club, he wanted to set up his squad by age groups as much as quality, so that meant that there was a natural progression of talent. There is much sense in this approach as we all saw what happened to the Amlin Squad of 2010. Only Andrews, Jenkins, Filise and Warburton remain from those who played in that game – that is NOT good squad planning.
To assess the job Wilson faces in remoulding this squad after years of awful recruitment, below is a list of players by quality. The first group (1-15) shows those who should be first team picks in a team challenging to win the PrO’12. As many of those should be internationals, the next group (16-30) should be your good club players who can step up to perform. The final group (31-45) should be the up and coming Academy graduates. The list shows how poor is this Cardiff squad:
Cory Allen, Gareth Anscombe, Alex Cuthbert, Tom James, Gethin Jenkins, Ellis Jenkins, Rey Lee Lo, Rhys Patchell, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Williams
Kristian Dacey, Jarrad Hoeata, Craig Mitchell, Josh Navidi, Blaine Scully, Josh Turnball
Scott Andrews, Macauley Cook, Cam Dolan, Jarrod Evans (Y), Dan Fish, Sam Hobbs, Tavis Knoyle, Dillon Lewis (Y), Ethan Lewis (Y), Garyn Smith (Y), Aled Summerhill (Y), Tomos Williams (Y), James Down
Liam Belcher (Y), Gareth Davies, Tom Davies, Gavin Evans, Tau Filise, Tom Isaacs, Lewis Jones, Lou Reed, Matthew Rees, Richard Smith, Adam Thomas, Manoa Vosawai
As you can see, the squad is dreadfully imbalanced. The players marked (Y) are the Academy graduates who could be pushing through so it’s good to see 6 of those in the correct category. What stands out, of course, is 11 players who should be culled from the squad completely. The list also shows that only three of the six non-Welsh qualified players are in the correct category.
I believe that a turnover of those 12 players is needed and that is assuming that Patchell stays and more Academy graduates feature in the 31-45 group. The first team needs 5 of those players and 7 more need to be added to the ’15-30′ list.
So where will those players come from, who are they and what would they cost?
1-15: Hooker (nWq), Tight Head (nWq), Second Row (nWq), Second Row (Bradley Davies), Number 8 (Ross Moriarty)
16-30: Loose Head (Rhys Gill), Second Row (Time Server), Second Row (Time Server), Back Row, Scrum Half, Centre, Centre
As you can see from the list above, I don’t think that it is possible to recruit to becoming a PrO’12 contender by next season as the Welsh qualified players of suitable quality just aren’t available without raiding another Welsh team. Therefore, there is an onus on Wilson to coach players up that squad ranking. The big challenge is for players like James Down, Lou Reed, Macauley Cook, Tavis Knoyle and Garyn Smith to move up that list.
Losing Patchell to gain Halfpenny seems to be a strong rumour, but that wouldn’t really move the squad along. The key work needs to be done in Wilson’s specialist area of the front five.
Is the budget there to do this? I’d say releasing the players rated 45+ should free up at least £800,000 a year which should go most of the way to playing for the 5 first team players needed.
I doubt that there is anything left in the budget for the 7 squad players needed, so Wilson’s coaching team are going to have to work really hard to push Cardiff up that PrO’12 table.
Welsh Qualified Players Playing in England:
Bath: Sid Blackmore (BR), Dominic Day (SR), Jonathan Evans (SH), Rhys Priestland (OH)
Exeter: Phil Dolman (FB), Tomos Francis (THP), Adam Hughes (C), Damien Welch (L)
Gloucester: Richard Hibbard (H), James Hook (OH), Ross Moriarty (BR), Mat Protheroe (OH), Nicky Thomas (THP), Dan Thomas (BR), Gareth Evans (BR), Lewis Ludlow (BR)
Harlequins: Owen Evans (LHP), Adam Jones (THP), Jamie Roberts (C)
Leicester: Owen Williams (OH)
London Irish; Andrew Fenby (Wing), Darren Allinson (SH)
Northampton: George North (Wing)
Sale: Eifion Lewis-Roberts (P), Nick Macleod (OH), Jonathan Mills (SR)
Saracens: Rhys Gill (LHP)
Wasps: Bradley Davies (SR), Edd Shervington (H), Thomas Young (BR)
Worcester: Jean-Baptiste Bruzier (SH), Sam Lewis (BR), Joe Rees (THP)