Published on 28 August 2015
It’s going to be a strange season.
Well, nothing new there I suppose. We’ve had a number of strange years at the Arms Park with giddy heights - such as being the only side to beat champions Toulon in the European Cup - alongside some soul-searching lows - see Zebre home and away losses and losing twice to the Dragons last year!
However this season is strange for another reason. With the Rugby World Cup kicking off after match week 2 in the Pro 12, the league will realistically be missing its top stars for the first 7 matches - that’s nearly a third of the season!
For the likes of the Ospreys, Leinster, Munster and Glasgow, this is particularly bad news. Their squads will be depleted at best during this time, while the more ‘mid-table’ sides may benefit from losing fewer top players.
Cardiff Blues are one of those who can take advantage of this situation.
It’s a guarantee that the Blues will be without Gethin Jenkins and Sam Warburton, while Gareth Anscombe, Kristian Dacey and Lloyd Williams seem to have done enough to force themselves into the Welsh squad.
However, Rhys Patchell and Tom James have already been released, while Cory Allen and Scott Andrews are also expected to be returning to the Arms Park.
Elsewhere, Blane Scully, Cam Dolan and Rey Lee-Lo have made the USA and Samoa squads but Manoa Vosawai has been cut from the Italy squad.
All in all, it means Cardiff are likely to only be without 8 players - 2 of which arguably aren’t first choice. This could give Cardiff a huge advantage in these crucial opening fixtures.
The downside to the World Cup, however, is the bizarre fixture list which features 5 consecutive away fixtures in the opening 6 games. The Millennium Stadium will play host to a number of matches, and the Arms Park will be covered by a corporate gazebo for the best part of a month.
Taking everything into account, it’s impossible to predict how the Blues will do this year. On top of the RWC and the disruption that comes with it, Cardiff have a new coach in Danny Wilson and will hope to prove they are not as bad a team as they were last season.
It’s set to be a strange one alright. But an interesting one. And perhaps, maybe even a good one.