Cardiff Blues have continued their academy recruitment with the signing of Welsh exile, Gwilym Bradley.
The promising back row joins fellow exile, Theo Bevaqua, in putting pen-to-paper at Cardiff Arms Park, committing his future to Welsh rugby.
Bradley was educated at Hampton School in London and came through the London Irish pathway system, featuring for their under-18 side.
He went on to study economics at Bath University, playing in the BUCS Super League, and was called up to the Cardiff Blues A side for the Celtic Cup campaign earlier this season.
Bradley has also represented Wales at under-19 level and has been a member of the Wales under-20’s wider training squad ahead of this season’s Six Nations campaign.
The back row, who was born in Kingston, London, and qualifies for Wales through his mother who was born in Newport, is delighted to link up with Wales’ Capital Region but admits the hard work begins now.
“It was great to spend time with Cardiff Blues A earlier in the season. That was my first experience of a professional set-up and it opened my eyes to how everything operated.
“The older guys, who had more than 100 appearances for the first team, treated you with a lot of respect, but were also happy to guide you through it and teach you different stuff.
“If it’s anything like my experience there when I link up with the academy, it’s exactly what I want.
“I didn’t have to think much about it to be honest. It’s the opportunity that I’ve been dreaming of.
“I want to be a rugby player. That’s my dream. And now that journey starts and I have to crack on and get to work.
“You’ve got the likes of Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson and Nick Williams here, as well as someone like James Botham, who I played with during the Celtic Cup, and he was already able to help me with the little things that I could pick up.
“That’s what makes you a better player, and I’m looking forward to continuing that over the next few years.
“Being with Wales under-20 is another exciting opportunity which will hopefully push me forward. I’m doing all I can to get the nod for the Six Nations. I’ve done a few camps with them, and been working with coaches like Gethin Jenkins and Gareth Williams, who are the best I’ve worked with.
“I’ve really appreciated the support from Gethin because all it takes is that one coach to champion you and believe in you. That can go a long way, and that’s what’s happened.
“If it wasn’t for the exiles programme, I would never have had the opportunity to get a look in back in Wales. The work they do is amazing in gathering players from all over the world, and to have the chance in front of Welsh coaches is really good.”
Academy manager, Gruff Rees, is excited to welcome the 19-year-old into the set-up and believes it’s further evidence of the strong relationship between Cardiff Blues and the Welsh exiles.
“Our recruitment for the academy this season has been extremely positive. We’ve managed to secure the future of a number of promising and local talent, and bringing the likes of Theo and Gwilym into Welsh rugby is really exciting.
“We’ve got a really exciting group of players in our academy now. There is a lot of potential and depth in positions across the park, and it highlights the region’s commitment to developing players through the pathway. We have worked hard to add depth where there was a couple of potential gaps in our succession planning.
“Gwilym coming in is a testament to the work done by the Welsh Exiles programme, particularly [WRU national exiles officer] Gareth Davies, and we’re looking forward to continue our strong working relationship with them in the future.
“Gwilym is a hard-working and bright young player with a lot of potential. His exposure to BUCS rugby is a fantastic platform and we’re looking forward to see what he can bring to an already-competitive back row unit at the Arms Park.
“The signing once again shows the positives of the Cardiff Blues A programme, and the work done by those coaches. It’s an opportunity to monitor the performance and potential of young players, such as Gwilym.
“He’s another one that’s impressed both Gethin Jenkins and T Rhys Thomas both on and off the field, and the opportunity he’s had with the Wales age grade sides will be fantastic for his growth.”