On Thursday evening Cardiff Blues supporters were treated to an exclusive online Meet the New Players Evening.
The event, which is usually hosted on an annual basis in the clubhouse, was broadcast across the club’s social media channels in collaboration with the Cardiff Blues Supporters Club.
Those attended enjoyed a brief welcome and rugby update from head coach John Mulvihill before Rhys Carré, Cory Hill and Luke Scully joined Mike Brown for a Q&A.
Now we have picked out some of the highlights for you to enjoy.
“Returning to rugby has been an absolute god send for everyone. They were over not being involved and seeing each other on a daily basis.
“To all of their credit, the players and staff, they have kept themselves busy and in touch. It wasn’t easy for anyone and its taken its time but we’ve been patient and now we’re back into it.
“It’s been really good, there’s obviously the craziness you have to go through each morning with all the forms, temperature checks, having a PCR test once a week.
“We’ll have a good hit out tomorrow (Friday) as an internal trial.”
On Luke Scully:
“For a young kid he has been fantastic for us, he’s settled into our environment really well and one of the things we spoke about when we first met was his talk on field. He felt it was pretty good and that’s something we need with our young backs and he certainly brings that.
“He’s really good with the ball in hand, he has a good kicking game and is ticking all the boxes. We will look for continual improvement from him and working quite closely with him.”
On Rhys Carré:
“Big Red - we were lucky we didn’t fall out last year when he went to Saracens! He left on good terms and went on to represent Wales at the World Cup. He had a fantastic tournament, things happen in rugby and we had the opportunity to bring him back.
“It’s good to bring him back into the fold but he knows he’s in a position where we have a few loose heads and we’ve had a decent chat about what I specifically want to see from him.
“We’ve all got work ons as coaches and players but he just has the ability to do something special for us. We’ll work hard with Rhys to make sure he is in the frame with us and Wales going forward.”
On Cory Hill:
Cory - “It’s great to have him back. We haven’t spoken too much about what I expect from him yet. I just want him to settle back into playing rugby for the Blues and it’s been quite seamless.
“It’s great to have him back at the club, I’m sure he will be awesome for us and in the next couple of weeks we will talk specifically about what I want from him. He knows we lack a little bit of leadership and what he can bring is awesome. We have some good leaders but sometimes on the field they are a bit quiet. What I expect from Cory is that talk in the moment.”
Question and answer session:
Q: Cory, welcome back. How pleased are you to be back here and what was it that attracted you?
CH: I’m very pleased to be back. Obviously Cardiff Blues have a very exciting team with loads of quality players. I linked up with a few of the players during Welsh camps and had a good few chats with John (Mulvihill), Dickie Holland and Alun (Jones) and I like the vision the club have and the direction they are going.
“There’s a lot happening off field which is massive for me and I’m here to play some rugby and it’s an exciting time here. We have some great players, especially in the backline which really excites me.”
Q Rhys it can’t feel like you’ve been away very long if at all?
RC: Yeah, as I’ve said earlier it has only been 13-14 months since I left in the first place. Don’t get me wrong it’s been a long 13-14 months but I’m back now and I enjoyed my experiences at Saracens and with Wales at the World Cup. I think I’ve gained the experience to come back as a better player than when I left.
Q: What did you learn from the time with Saracens and generally a whirlwind 12-18 months?
RC: “I’ve now been exposed to different environments, different levels of rugby and training intensities. The different training styles under different coaches has really given me a better overall understanding of the game.
Q: Luke, our supporters probably know the least about you, can you give a brief outline of your career so far?
LS: “I’m a Neath boy and from a young age I went through the Ospreys academy and age-grades. I’ve played 16s, 18s and 20s for Wales and while playing for the Ospreys at 18s level I moved to Worcester for two years.
“I went across the bridge and experienced something new and I was put straight into the senior academy, which helped a lot, because you’re training with the first team on a regular basis.
“I gained a lot of experience from that, which was great, but I then decided to finally move back home and join Cardiff Blues.
Q: It must have been a big decision to make the move to Worcester at such a young age?
“The main thing that attracted me about Worcester when I went up there to have a look was that their facilities are second to none.
“They let the senior academy guys train with the first team and the experience you gain from a young age from training with guys like Ben Te’o, Francois Hougaard and people like that is just amazing.
Q: Who were the fly-halves at the time?
“The 10s there at the time were Jono Lance and Duncan Weir. Jono was my mentor, and I did a lot of kicking with him, and we’d watch games back together, just the three of us, and talk about things on the pitch.
“It was really good to have, as a young guy coming through, as people you can look up to. It’s the same now with Jarrod and Tovey. I always look for things I can improve, and how they can help me, and that was great to have.”
Q: Cory when you were last here we were based at the Vale but we’re now at Pentwyn, how good have those facilities been?
CH: It’s many moons ago now that I was coming through at the club, eight or nine years ago now, but we had some good times at the Vale. They recently moved to the Arms Park and that’s now being used as a hospital.
Our new place is at Pentwyn Leisure Centre and it’s great to see what some of the club’s partners have done to spruce it up and get it ready for the boys. It’s exciting for us as a new home, it’s new for all the players and there’s a lot of work still going on.
Q: You mention some of our sponsors and I understand you have your own engineering business, how has lockdown been for you?
CH: “Yeah, J R Davies. We’re in the construction industry so initially it went a bit quiet and a few sites were closed during Covid but we were lucky that ours stayed open and we were able to keep everyone in work. It’s starting to pick up now and construction is booming, which is lucky for us.
“I have a lot going on off the field, as well as on it, which is very important as a rugby player as it keeps your mind focused when you’re in rugby and you’ve got something outside of that as well. It’s a short career, so it’s also something to look forward to in the future as well.
Q Rhys, it was a difficult lockdown for you being stuck in a London flat for three months. How challenging was it?
RC: “Spending that amount of time on your own isn’t good for anyone… I think I saw about three people in 12 weeks.
“It was tough but thankfully I had zoom and the boys were online on the PS4 everyday. That kept me entertained and then just getting outside for a walk or run every day and bits and pieces like the weekly shop.
“Everyone went through it and we all had our different experiences but I’m glad it’s behind me and I’m glad to be back in training.”
Q: What are you most excited about in the return to rugby?
RC: “Getting back into some sort of normality. No one has ever experienced this and we’re used to playing week in, week out so hopefully these two games will give us a sense of being back to normal.
LS: “I just can’t wait to get playing. My last match was five or six months ago so I can’t wait to get the ball back in my hands and trying not to get smashed around by forwards.
CH: “I’m just glad there’s not going to be any Dragons supporters there (when we play at Rodney Parade! The stadiums will be empty, which is going to be weird but I’m just glad we’re in the home changing room and not the away one because it’s pretty small there.
“We’re all busting to get back out there, we’ve been out of action for four months, which is the longest break any of us have probably had since starting as professional players. Everyone is excited.
“Who knows what these games will be like but it’s definitely a building block for us. Hopefully we can build, try out some new things and get prepared for when the league does start back in October.
Q: How beneficial do you think this extended break will be for players on the back of really long season?
CH: It’s a blessing in disguise for a lot of players. They’ve probably had two long seasons dragged into one (with the World Cup).
“Unfortunately for myself I was injured for most of those so it was frustrating to go from being injured for a year, getting back fit playing, another little blip during the Six Nations and then being off for a few months.
“I’m lucky to have a home gym and the WRU loaned me a watt bike so I kept myself pretty fit and we’ve certainly been put through our paces down at Cardiff Blues since being back. We are all ready mentally and physically now and it’s just about getting out there and putting it all into practice.”
Q: You mentioned the Wattbike, how was that challenge for Tenovus Cancer Care?
CH: “I’m also a patron for Tenovus Cancer Care. It’s been a terrible time for everyone in the world with what’s going on, but for the cancer charities and cancer patients it’s probably even worse because they haven’t been able to see their loved ones and they’re stuck in the hospital.
“With all the charity work that Tenovus usually do, they’ve had to close down their shops and a lot of their fundraising events so they asked their patrons to do a few challenges over lockdown to raise some money.
“I got Dillon to join me for a challenge, where we cycled 220 miles over three sittings. We DID 150 MILES in one day and 70 the next morning. It was good fun, with Rupert Moon joining us along the way too.
“That was pretty challenging in the back yard on the Wattbike, although I’m pretty sure it would’ve been easier had I done it seeing the views from north Wales to south Wales.
“But I’m glad we did it and I think we raised around £7,500 which is massive for the charity.”
Q: Rhys, how challenging is the competition in the front-row?
“Coming back there’s a lot of competition and as a youngster you look forward to being challenged in training.
“We have a good group of young lads in the front row, next to a couple of the older boys, it’s provided a good mix.
“The sessions we’re doing at the moment are getting pretty tasty and obviously we haven’t scrummaged for a while so we’ll get back into it and get used to it again.
Q: What can you bring as a player?
LS: “The back line we have is really exciting with older players and young payers and I just want to fit in wherever I can help.
“As a player I am probably a pretty basic outside-half, I like to run and kick when it is on. I can play a bit of heads up rugby but it’s knowing where we are on the pitch and what to do. That comes with experience and learning from the coaches, Jarrod and Tovs.”
Q: What do Cardiff Blues need to do as a team to reach the next level?
RC: “I haven’t played with many of the boys for a whole but we need to get that cohesion again that we had a couple of years ago when we won the Challenge Cup. That year showed that if you work well together as a team you can win things.
CH: “The biggest thing for me is consistency . We have proved over the last couple of years that Cardiff Blues can beat anyone on their day, it’s just brining that consistency especially in the league.
“It’s about getting that Champions Cup rugby and then kicking on. The strength in depth at the Blues is top notch, everyone is pushing for places in training and I certainly wouldn’t like to be the coach picking the team for next Saturday because everyone is chomping at the bit.”
Q What will it be like playing at an empty stadium?
CH: "It’s going to be a very strange experience but we are where we are and if you ask the boys what they would rather do then it would be playing. It’s about getting some normality back and hopefully we can get some fans back soon,
Q Where do you see Cardiff Blues this time next year and how can you contribute?
RC: “These two games will show us where we are, what we need to improve on and what we’re doing well. For me, if I’m lucky enough and I’m working hard enough to get the nod then I want to bring that bit of edge and that ball carrying that I enjoy.
“If I can do that and the boys all do what they’re good at then I can’t see why we can’t have a good season.”
Q: Will these games act as a springboard?
RC: “These games may not mean much in the grand scheme of things but they are still Welsh derbies and they will mean a lot to the boys involved. If we can put down a marker then that will give us a good head start going into the season.
Q What are your short-term and long-term goals?
LS. “Short-term it’s just getting as much experience and improving as a player and person as much as I can whether it’s by speaking to Jarrod and Tovs about different experiences on the pitch, the coaches and learning different skills. Long-term, in eight or nine years I would love to be playing for Wales.
Q: Did Cardiff Blues track record of developing young talent appeal to you when making the decision to join?
LS: “It’s really impressive the likes of Rhys, Owen, Jarrod, Tomos they’ve all had their caps at a young age and a lot of that is down to what goes on at Cardiff Blues, the coaching and the facilities as well. That was a big thing about me coming here, to be able to push on to the next level.”
Q: Cory, what young players have impressed you so far that we should look for?
CH: You still have to look at Jarrod and Tomos as young players - they have been absolutely outstanding.
“Then you look at our back-three, Owen Lane is still very young and had a couple of caps last year and is exciting, Luke coming in from Worcester.
“In the pack , there are so many good youngsters. I’m working a bit with Teddy Williams who is coming through and obviously Seb Davies is still very young. I would like to see Seb have a very good season and hopefully break back into the Welsh squad as well.
“I’ve also been very impressed with the front-row boys as well with Corey and Azza who are still very young and have played a lot more than a lot of other youngsters. They are really impressing in training.”