Cardiff Blues – The Downward Spiral
There were some desperate sweaty palms on display in Cardiff Blues corners this week, as yet another star looked set to part ways with the crises club. The fear element for the Cardiff Blues though must be that now one of their young guns, Grand Slam winner Alex Cuthbert, looks to have packed his bag. Previously it was a case of the aging foreigners and light weight Welsh journeyman quota who seemed to be lining up to walk out of the city centre, but now the future of the Blues seems to be following the present away from the club as well.
For Welsh rugby fans, the loss of the likes of Dan Parks, Ritchie Rees and Rhys Thomas will see few tears shed, and while Lauala is no doubt a star, he is a foreign star blocking a starting spot for a Welsh player, another departure which in itself is not an entirely bad thing. Sounds coming out of the Blues management should also have given reason to be reassured, after all, a commitment from the club to follow a ‘home grown’ path, similar to that develop by the Scarlets, should be welcomed. However, no sooner had the Blues announced such intentions, they did what they have done so well over recent years, flown in some very average foreigners.
Campese Ma’afu, the Fijian forward to have the briefest of international careers, and star of the English second tier Robin Copeland were the names announced last week as replacements for Lions and All Black internationals… Now, the Blues as with all Welsh teams don’t really have the money to be bringing in the southern hemisphere superstars, however, in Ma’afu and Copeland, the Blues have ‘invested’ in two non Welsh qualified players, who have never shown the star capabilities to inspire young Welsh talent at the club to go on to be anything more than mediocre.
For Alex Cuthbert, no one in Wales would blame him for leaving. This is in part an issue of money, but far from entirely. We know Cuthbert was offered a substantial figure by a Blues management desperate to appear to be doing their bit to ‘save’ Welsh talent, but for all the money put in front of him, surely Cuthbert can see that this is a club that has, in a very definitive fashion, set its stall out to be an average side, and no more. The recent on field capitulations have shown this all too clearly. Say what you will of the future, last week the Blues were fighting for a shot at a European title and a place in the Pro12 play-offs in the present…they surrendered both opportunities in such a manner that you’d be justified in asking why they turned up in the first place.
Balancing the books is one thing, but curbing ambition is quite another. If the Blues commit to the current policy of bolstering a depleted squad with the rejects of the lower divisions of English rugby, the concept of ‘holding on’ to their Welsh stars will rapidly become irrelevant, as the Welsh stars won’t be bother bring to be held on to in the first place.