Cardiff Blues have been given a boost ahead of their crunch Heineken Cup match against Harlequins this Friday (11 January 8.00pm kick off) with the news that flanker Robin Sowden-Taylor and prop Gethin Jenkins have signed new contracts with the region that will keep them with the Blues until the end of 2010.
Robin is a product of Cardiff Youth and under-21s and was earmarked for representative honours at an early age. He played senior sevens for Wales at the age of 18 and also toured Japan with the full Wales squad in 2001. On tour he represented Wales XV against Suntory and the Pacific Barbarians.
Robin won his first Wales cap in the win over Italy in 2005 as part of the squad that won the Grand Slam that year and also played in Wales last match against World Champions South Africa in November 2007.
In September 2006 suffered a serious injury to his ankle that kept him out most of the season but determination and hard work meant he was playing for the Blues again at the end of the season and managed to secure a place on the Wales tour to Australia.
He has played 77 times for the Blues and captained the team in the Boxing Day win over the Dragons.
Gethin Jenkins has been one of the most consistent players for the Blues this season. Strong scrummaging is matched by his tireless defensive work in the loose.
Gethin captained his country for the fist time in the match against South Africa in November, having made his debut against Romania in Wrexham in 2003.
He played in all three of the Lions tests in New Zealand in the summer of 2005 and has won over 50 caps for Wales. He joined the Cardiff Blues in 2004 from the Celtic Warriors and has played 64 times for the region.
Speaking of the signings Gethin said:
Im happy at the Blues and dont live far from where we train. They are currently building new training facilities so hopefully theyll be finished soon which is great news for the squad.
Weve also made some good signings which has strengthened the squad. I think year after year weve been getting better and its just a case now of putting it all together and getting results and winning some trophies.
Everything off the field is being built, the new stadium and training facilities so we need to get everything in place for next season.
These two Heineken Cup matches are going to make or break our season; theyre massive games for us. First up Friday against Quins we have to put in a good performance as weve had a bad couple of weeks with the three games over Christmas, said Gethin
Robin Sowden Taylor was pleased with the improvements in the Blues over recent seasons and is eager to be part of the future with the Blues.
One of the main reasons I signed is that we are really moving forward as a region. I think everyone can see the improvements weve made over the last few years, and its a great region to be involved with, said Robin.
I think theyll be some exiting times ahead. Its a step in the right direction with regards to the new stadium and new facilities which hopefully will improve areas on the pitch.
Over the last few years weve signed quality players and the youngsters coming through the system have really performed well. I think the balance is right and we want to win some silverware and hopefully that will be soon.
Cardiff is where I grew up and its the only place where my heart is at. Obviously, sometimes you have to think about elsewhere to improve your rugby but at the same time I feel Im really on my toes here. Im getting regular rugby and the competition is really good between me and Martyn.
I find that Im really pushing myself everyday rather than starting every game week in week out, which may put you in a comfort zone. Thats certainly not the case with me at the moment, which is good on a personal level and hopefully that will improve my game.
Its a new era in Welsh rugby with Warren Gatlands appointment and the World Cup is four years which we are all building towards. Obviously the Six Nations is a massive tournament which I have played in before, albeit on the outskirts, and I hope I will be involved more this season.
Speaking of the double singings David Young said:
Obviously its pleasing that a player of Gethins quality has signed a new contract. Arguably weve got two of the most prominent loose heads in the country who should play a big part in Waless preparation this season, said Young.
Gethin has been playing extremely well and its a great compliment to John Yapp, who has pushed Gethin to another level over the last five or six weeks. Hes needed to be playing at that level as hes under a lot of pressure from John, which can not only be good for Gethin as an individual but also for the Blues and Wales.
Weve got two quality loose head props that can play against anyone, at any level, and come out on top.
It has always been my intention, if we want to compete at the highest level and challenge for trophies, to have two quality players in each position. Thats what Leicester, Stade Francais and teams like that have.
We are fortunate not only to have that with Gethin and John but also with Robin and Martyn. Its slightly different as Martyn has retired from international rugby and hes doing his best to keep hold of his Blues shirt.
I think everyone knows its inevitable really that Robin will leap frog Martyn and be the number one not only here for Wales also in my opinion.
Its nip and tuck between the both of them for selection and it can go either way for each game. Everything depends on current form as they are both as good as each other.
The Cardiff Blues take on Harlequins this Friday 11 January, 8.00pm kick off. Tickets are available online at http://www.cardiffblues.com/ r by calling the ticket office on 029 2030 2030.