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Cardiff Blues ( ) are one of the four professional Welsh regional rugby union teams. Based in Cardiffmarker, the capital of Walesmarker, the team will play at Cardiff City Stadiummarker from the start of the 2009/2010 season and are owned by Cardiff Rugby Football Club.

Cardiff Blues are responsible for developing rugby union in the city of Cardiff, Vale of Glamorganmarker, the eastern Glamorganmarker valleys and Breconshiremarker.

The Cardiff Blues compete in the Magners League, which includes teams from the Celtic nations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition, Cardiff Blues compete in the Anglo-Welsh EDF Energy Cup and European Heineken Cup. The club have qualified for the Heineken Cup every season, but have only recently won honours by winning the 2009 EDF Energy Cup (Anglo-Welsh Cup).

The teams main sponsor is currently EADS. The Cardiff Blues kit is manufactured by Canterbury of New Zealand.

History

Formation

Until the beginning of the 2003-04 season, Welsh rugby was organised in a typical league pyramid, at the top of which were 9 professional clubs. The system was similar to the English Guinness Premiership and French Top 14 club systems. However, by the 2002-03 season it was clear for financial reasons that Wales could not support nine professional teams.

In a process instigated by the then CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), David Moffett, the nine clubs began the process of organising themselves into "regional" teams.

An agreement was reached whereby Cardiff RFC would be allowed to form a "standalone" club, meaning that they would not have to amalgamate with any of the other 8 professional clubs. The official Cardiff Blues launch event took place at the Cardiff Hilton on 6 June, 2003.

2003-04

Cardiff Blues lost their first three matches, including friendlies against Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints and a Celtic League game against Glasgow). By the end of 2003, they had lost 12 matches and only won three (against Connacht, Leinster and Ospreys), all the wins coming at home. Increasingly, there were calls for head coach Dai Young to step down.

The 43-6 win over Ospreys was notable for the performance of fireman Lee Abdul. The semi-professional had been brought into the squad as cover during the 2003 Rugby World Cup and scored a record four tries from the wing. Unfortunately for Abdul, he suffered a serious injury in the next home game against the Newport Gwent Dragons.

In January the Cardiff Blues recorded Heineken Cup victories over English club Sale and French side Biarritz Olympique. The temporary signing of former Australian international Matt Cockbain seemed to revitalise the side, and his brief stay coincided with a six match unbeaten run which lasted until a dour 0-6 loss to the Llanelli Scarlets in March. Cardiff Blues finished the season as the lowest ranked Welsh club in the Celtic League having only managed one win against another Welsh side. They were however the highest try scorers in the league, scoring 73 tries.

2004-05

Cardiff Blues finished the Celtic League 9th place, and recorded only one win in the Heineken Cup. Calls for Head Coach Dai Young to be removed intensified between November and January when the team went eight games without recording a victory. Following the 15-38 loss to Stade Français Paris the players were booed from the field by their own supporters.

Finishing in a low position in the league meant that in order to qualify for the Heineken Cup, Cardiff Blues had to compete in a play-off game against the third place Italian side Arix Viadana. Cardiff Blues won this game 38-9, thus qualifying for the Heineken Cup through what the media described as the cat flap. This was only the second away win of the season, and the governing body made plans to ensure that performance on the field would dramatically improve the following season.

2005-06

In the summer of 2005 funds were finally made available to sign new players allowing Dai Young to start rebuild the side. Former New Zealand No.8 Xavier Rush was among several new signings who gave the squad a much stronger look on paper. Also, a new custom built training head-quarters was established at Hensol in the outskirts of Cardiff. Previously the team had been training on public fields and in public gyms.

There was further reason for optimism when the Heineken Cup draw was announced. Cardiff Blues were matched with Italian minnows Calvisano, notoriously poor travellers USA Perpignan and the Leeds Tykes. Many believed that Cardiff Blues had a golden opportunity of finally making the Heineken Cup quarter finals.

Results did not improve immediately, with the 37-20 win over Saracens in October 2005 the highlight to a disappointing start to the season. However in the prematch announcement it was confirmed that rugby legend Jonah Lomu had agreed to join Cardiff Blues on a temporary basis as he tried to rebuild his career in time for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Lomu was recovering from a kidney transplant, but the signing gave notice of the team's renewed ambition. His home debut versus Calvisano was greeted by a capacity crowd and the signing was regarded as a marketing masterstroke. Results improved with wins over the Ospreys and the Newport Gwent Dragons in December.

In January 2006 the Cardiff Blues were knocked out of the Heineken Cup after losing 3-21 at home to Perpignan and then losing 3-48 to the relegation threatened Leeds Tykes. This formed part of a 5 match losing run, coinciding with the loss through injury of outside half Nicky Robinson. The poor run prompted the management to issue "final warnings" to under performing players.As had been the case in the two previous seasons, results improved in the latter months of the season, and in May, the Celtic League attendance record was broken when 15,327 watched Cardiff Blues beat Leinster 40-31 at the Millennium Stadium. The Cardiff Blues finished the league in 4th; the highest placed Welsh team.

2006-07

More signings, including former New Zealand fullback Ben Blair, further enhanced the quality of the Cardiff Blues squad for the 2006-07 season. Several young players from the regional academy also became established players, including Chris Czekaj and Duane Goodfield. The emergence of other highly tipped young players (notably Bradley Davies and Tom James) encouraged the belief that Cardiff Blues can soon start challenging for major honours. London Waspsmarker, Saracens and London Irish were all defeated in the EDF Cup group stages, however the Ospreys defeated the Blues 27-10 in the semi final at the Millennium Stadiummarker on March 24, 2007.

In the Heineken Cup, Cardiff Blues recorded their first win in France, beating Bourgoin 13-5. For their next game, the Cardiff Blues again played at the Millennium Stadium. This time hosting Leicester Tigers, they attracted their highest ever Heineken Cup crowd, with 26,309 spectators attending the game, although they lost they game by 17 points to 21 after being down to 14 men for a long period of the game. Cardiff Blues were finally knocked out of the Heineken Cup after successive losses to the champions, Munster, despite respectable performances (particularly at Munster's Thomond Park).

Cardiff Blues fared better in the domestic league, finishing second after having beaten Leinster at home to go top of the league, only for the Ospreys to win at Borders the next day to claim the title.

2007-08

Signings

Further additions to the Blues squad over the summer include Gareth Thomas, Paul Tito and Jason Spice, who was brought in to replace Mike Philips who signed to the Ospreys for a reported £180,000 a year.

Magners League

The Blues won their first two games of the season, beating the Ospreys at home in the opening match and extending their unbeaten home record to sixteen games, and recording an away win at Newport Gwent Dragons the following week to top the table. The Blues extended their unbeaten home record to seventeen games the following week with a home victory against Glasgow, but subsequently lost their next home game against Leinster conceding two interception tries.

The Blues responded to the defeat against Leinster with an away victory over Munster, only the second time in the history of the Celtic League that the Blues maintained their position at the top of the league. The following week saw a 30-16 home victory against Connacht, with Gareth Thomas making his first appearance in Blues colours, coming on off the bench after 50 minutes to replace wing Rhys Williams.

EDF Cup

The EDF Cup started well for the Blues with a 32-15 bonus point win at home over Sale. Cardiff scoring four tries in the first 30 minutes with Gareth Thomas getting two of these on his first start for the Cardiff Blues. In the second week of the EDF Cup the Blues lost 42-20 against Leicester Tigers, effectively knocking them out of the EDF Energy Cup. In the final pool game of the competition the Blues ended Bath RFCs twelve-month unbeaten home record, winning 6-14 at the Recreation Ground. This win however was insufficient, with Leicester progressing to the semi-finals as a result of having gained a bonus point in every pool match.

Heineken Cup

The Blues began their Heineken Cup campaign with a bonus point 34-18 home win over Bristol, and followed this with a 13-13 away draw at Harlequins. In December, the Blues secured a losing bonus point in their 12-6 loss against Stade Francais in Paris, and subsequently won the return fixture 31-21 the following week. A 23-12 home win over Harlequins followed by a 17-0 away win at Bristol secured qualification to the quarter-final stages as the fifth seed. The Blues subsequently lost their away quarter-final 41-17 against Toulouse on April 6.

2008-09

Signings

Very low key signings made in the summer; Ceri Sweeney, Aled Brew and Richard Mustoe. After a clear out of mostly squad players that saw seven players leave; Marc Stcherbina, Robert Sidoli, Nick Macleod, James Goode, Duane Goodfield, Tom Riley and Rhys Shellard.

Subsequently, Aled Brew has been loaned to Newport Gwent Dragons.

Magners League

EDF Cup

Heineken Cup

The Blues began their Heineken Cup campaign with a 20-56 bonus point victory away to Calvisano. This was followed by a bonus point 37-24 win against Gloucester at the Millennium Stadiummarker. A crowd of 27,114 set a new record for a Heineken Cup pool stage game for the Welsh region. The Blues then claimed back-to-back victories over Biarritz in December, winning 21-17 at home followed by a 6-10 victory away.

Following the Christmas break, the Blues recorded an away 12-16 victory over Gloucester despite being reduced to 14 men after Tom James was sent-off for a head butt on Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam. The final round of pool games saw the Blues face Calvisano at home. A bonus point 62-20 win ensured that the Blues remained the only unbeaten team in the pool stages of the 2008-09 Heineken Cup with the Blues claiming the top seed and a home quarter-final.

The quarter-final against eighth seed and three-times Heineken Cup winners Toulouse was played in the Millennium Stadiummarker with another record attendance of 36,778. The Blues claimed a 9-6 victory in a defence dominated game. The semi-final against Leicester Tigers was also hosted at the Millennium Stadium. Despite being 12-26 down with six minutes remaining, the Blues mounted a comeback tie the scores at 26-26 after 80 minutes and force extra time. With no further score in the 20 minutes of extra time, the game was forced into an historic penalty kick decider. The Blues were defeated 7-6 following missed kicks by Tom James and Martyn Williams.

2009-10

Signings

With the loss of Nicky Robinson, Jamie Robinson, Jason Spice and Ross Johnson; the Cardiff Blues have signed Sam Norton-Knight from the New South Wales Waratahs, Gareth Cooper from Gloucester and Gavin Evans from Scarlets, as well as Dafydd James whom the Scarlets released and Casey Laulala from the Canterbury Crusaders.

Colours

On their inception, the Cardiff Blues kit corresponded with the traditional Cardiff RFC colours of Cambridge blue and black. The kit for the subsequent season was a variation of these colours with white being used as an alternative strip in the case of a colour clash with the opposition.

In 2006, Cardiff Blues changed their playing strip in a decision widely interpreted as a move away from the old Cardiff RFC identity, as for the first time black was not included alongside the blue.

Identity controversy

At the event launching the Cardiff Blues brand in June 2003, the Chief Executive, Robert Norster said, "A huge amount of effort has been made to ensure that the past 127 years of club traditions are not lost. We are delighted by the way these aspects have been respected and retained within the new modern brand." Supporters saw the "new" team as a continuation of Cardiff RFC and the addition of the "Blues" moniker as merely a cosmetic exercise. This close association with Cardiff RFC has led to feelings of resentment from members and supporters of other Welsh rugby clubs, notably Pontypriddmarker.

There were repeated calls for Cardiff Blues to drop the "Cardiff" part of their name in order to sever links with the old Cardiff RFC identity and to move away from the traditional light blue kit worn by CRFC. Proponents of this idea point to the Super 14 tournament where teams such as the Bulls and Crusaders play with no geographic locator in their name. These calls intensified when the Celtic Warriors regional team was dissolved in 2004, bringing old rivals Pontypriddmarker within the catchment area of the Cardiff Blues region. However, there was significant opposition to any such move within the ranks of the club, despite now representing an area that far exceeds the boundaries of the city the side is perceived as a city club side by some outside the city itself.

Regional responsibilities

A map showing the Welsh rugby regions.
Cardiff Blues are responsible for assisting the development of rugby in an area covering the City of Cardiffmarker, the Vale of Glamorganmarker, the eastern Glamorganmarker valleys and Breconshiremarker.

Initially, the Cardiff Blues' region covered only the City of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorganmarker. However, this was expanded upon the demise of the Celtic Warriors region after one season. Cardiff RFC Ltd employ development officers who work with schools and clubs across the region and run a rugby academy for elite players aged 16 and above.

Home Ground

From the current 09-10 season Cardiff Blues have moved to the new Cardiff City Stadiummarker at Leckwith, which they share with Cardiff City F.C.. The first Blues home game at the new stadium was a friendly to Leicester RFC which they lost 5-14, the attendance was 16,000

According to the club, the Blues and Cardiff City will "share a joint ticket office together with joint branding at the stadium". Cardiff Athletic Club, who own Cardiff Arms Park and 28% of Cardiff Rugby Ltd, have recently voted overwhelmingly to support the move to the new stadium. The initial heads of terms agreement is for a 20-year licence. However, the company still has fifteen years left on its existing lease at the Arms Park and will continue using it for Cardiff RFC Premiership matches.

Previously the Cardiff Blues played their home games at the Cardiff Arms Parkmarker, situated next to the Millennium Stadiummarker, and for some bigger games, Cardiff Blues have played at the Millennium Stadium.

Management

Cardiff Blues have been coached by Dai Young since they were founded. He is currently assisted by former Australia sevens coach Bill Millard, Wales sevens coach Gareth Baber, former Academy manager Justin Burnell and former Canadian international Dan Baugh.

Current squad

 


* Ben White is a dual Australian/British national who has made himself available for the Welsh national team.

Transfers

2009/10

In

Home Union Position Player From
Gareth Cooper Gloucester
Gavin Evans Scarlets
, Dafydd James Scarlets
Casey Laulala Crusaders
, Darren Morris Worcester Warriors
, Sam Norton-Knight Waratahs


Out

Home Union Position Player To
Aled Brew Newport Gwent Dragons
Rhys Gill Saracens
Ross Johnson Bristol
Mark Lewis Retiring
Scott Roberts Coventry
Jamie Robinson Toulon
Nicky Robinson Gloucester
Marc Stcherbina Retiring
Jason Spice Bristol
Damian Welch Scarlets
, Rhys Williams Retiring


British and Irish Lions

The following players have been selected to play for the British and Irish Lions touring squads whilst playing for the Cardiff Blues. Gareth Thomas was selected for the 2005 Lions tour whilst playing for Stade Toulousain.

Player Home Union Tours
Gethin Jenkins 2005, 2009
Tom Shanklin 2005, 2009
Martyn Williams 2005, 2009
Leigh Halfpenny 2009
Andy Powell 2009
Jamie Roberts 2009


Notable former players

Players who have won over 20 international caps and have represented Cardiff Blues in the past:

Results and statistics

Celtic League

Season Played Won Drawn Lost Bonus Points Position
2008-09 18 8 1 9 4 38 6th
2007-08 18 12 0 6 8 56 2nd
2006-07 20 13 1 6 9 63 2nd
2005-06 22* 11 0 9 11 63 4th
2004-05 20 8 1 11 6 40 9th
2003-04 22 11 0 11 10 54 6th
* Includes 2 "Free Weekends" which equated to 4 points each.

Celtic League Cup

Celtic League Cup results
Season Round Match
2003-04 Quarter-final Edinburgh Rugby 33 – 16 Cardiff Blues


Heineken Cup

Heineken Cup results
Season Pool Played Win Draw Loss BP Points Place
2008-09 6 6 6 0 0 3 27 1st
Qtr-final Cardiff Blues 9 – 6 Toulouse
Semi-final Cardiff Blues 26 – 26 (6-7 penalties) Leicester Tigers
2007-08 3 6 4 1 1 2 20 1st
Qtr-final Toulouse 41 – 17 Cardiff Blues
2006-07 4 6 2 0 4 1 9 3rd
2005-06 2 6 3 0 3 3 15 3rd
2004-05 6 6 1 0 5 3 7 4th
2003-04 3 6 2 0 4 3 11 3rd


Anglo-Welsh Cup

Season Group/Round Pos Played Won Drawn Lost Bonus Points
2008-09 Group B 1st 3 3 0 0 0 12
Semi-final Cardiff Blues 11 – 5 Northampton Saints
Final Cardiff Blues 50 – 12 Gloucester Rugby
2007-08 Group B 2nd 3 2 0 1 1 9
2006-07 Group B 1st 3 3 0 0 1 13
Semi-final Cardiff Blues 10 – 27 Ospreys
2005-06 Group B 2nd 3 1 0 2 2 6


ERC Elite Award

In 2004 Cardiff Blues received the ERC Elite Award for having played 50 games in the Heineken Cup. This record began in 1995 when Cardiff RFC recorded an away draw at Bordeaux, and continued following the reorganisation of Welsh rugby in 2003, due to the club standing alone as Cardiff Blues. To the end of the 2006-2007 season, Cardiff have played a total of 68 Heineken Cup matches.

See also



References

  1. Cardiff Blues : Regional Clubs
  2. Welsh Rugby Union : Clubs Overwhelmingly Back Moffett
  3. (Bridgend RFC; Caerphilly RFC; Cardiff RFC; Ebbw Vale RFC; Llanelli RFC; Neath RFC; Newport RFC; Pontypridd RFC; Swansea RFC)
  4. Agreement Over Five-club Funding in Wales
  5. 'Just let us be' - icWales
  6. Rugby Union: HOT STUFF | Sunday Mirror | Find Articles at BNET.com
  7. Young praise for Blues capture Cockbain - icWales
  8. Millennium Stadium : Regional Preview: Cardiff Blues
  9. Who will carry the can for weary Blues? - icWales
  10. Dragons spare Blues blushes - icWales
  11. 'Time for Blues to deliver' - Peter Thomas - icWales
  12. Blues dealt a decent hand - icWales
  13. Lomu's stint with Blues not a conspicuous success - icWales
  14. The Lomu effect - icWales
  15. Dai: I never said I'd go - icWales
  16. The incredible hulk with a big future - icWales
  17. Another James making a big rugby impact! - icWales
  18. 'We can look the big boys in the eye' - icWales
  19. BBC SPORT | Rugby Union | My Club | Ospreys | Ospreys recruit Phillips & Gough
  20. BBC SPORT | Rugby Union | Welsh | Blues 17-15 Ospreys
  21. Cardiff Blues : Cardiff Blues 32 Glasgow 16
  22. Cardiff Blues : Cardiff Blues 19 Leinster 30
  23. http://www.cardiffblues.co.uk/33_3080.php.
  24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/my_club/cardiff_blues/7036232.stml
  25. Cardiff Blues : Blues Bonus Win Against Sale
  26. BBC Sport: Rugby Calvisano 20-56 Blues
  27. BBC Sport: Blues 37-24 Gloucester
  28. Cardiff Blues: Cardiff Blues 37 Gloucester 24
  29. BBC Sport: Cardiff Blues 21-17 Biarritz
  30. BBC Sport: Biarritz 6-10 Cardiff Blues
  31. BBC Sport: Gloucester 12-16 Blues
  32. BBC Sport: Cardiff Blues 62-20 Calvisano
  33. BBC Sport: Cardiff Blues 9-6 Toulouse
  34. BBC Sport: Cardiff Blues 26-26 Leicester (aet)
  35. Fans see red over new Blues strip - icWales
  36. Why the anger lives on at Ponty | the Daily Mail
  37. Jones' radical Blues-print for future - icWales
  38. Blues will not abandon Cardiff - icWales
  39. Super 14 teams
  40. Cardiff to stay - icWales
  41. [1]
  42. Scrum.com - Rugby News, Results, and Action, including the Rugby World Cup, from Scrum, the best Rugby Football site in the World : Cardiff /Warriors merger meeting opposition
  43. Tripartite statement on Leckwith Stadium
  44. City ground share plans signed and sealed
  45. BBC NEWS | Wales | Cardiff clubs sign 20-year deal
  46. Cardiff Blues : Tripartite statement on Leckwith Stadium
  47. http://www.cardiffblues.com/33_3940.php
  48. The tournament was stopped after the 2003/2004 season.
  49. European Rugby Cup : Team Awards


External links




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