It was going to be one of the biggest days of Cardiff’s season.

The opening round of the Champions Cup with the holders in town.

French aristocrats Toulouse – five-time winners of the tournament – were set to provide the opponents for Dai Young’s men in a humdinger of a showdown at a packed Arms Park.

But now the fixture lies in huge doubt, with Cardiff facing the prospect of suffering a 28-0 walkover defeat.

That is the result which will be recorded if they fail to field a team and that’s a very realistic possibility.

They have no fewer than 29 players stuck out in South Africa, with their return having had to be put on hold due to two Covid cases in camp, one suspected to be the Omicron variant.

The Welsh region has now confirmed, though, that the bulk of the travelling party, who have recorded negative PCR tests, will fly to England on Thursday before undergoing 10 days of isolation in a hotel. Read more here.

But they are out of the equation for the Toulouse game as they will still be be in their 10-day hotel quarantine period back in the UK at the time.

Where then does that leave us?

The reports are there will be no postponing of European fixtures to a later date.

So if Cardiff fail to fulfil the fixture, Toulouse will be given an automatic 28-0 win and five points.

The question, therefore, is whether there is any way the Arms Park outfit can piece together a team, utilising the senior stars who didn’t take the trip to South Africa, along with youngsters and players from Cardiff RFC.

We’ve had a go at coming up with a side.

To start with there are the six Wales squad members who stayed at home: Josh Adams, Willis Halaholo, Tomos Williams, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies and Ellis Jenkins.

There have been injury doubts over centre Halaholo (calf) and prop Lewis (feet), but the hope is they would be fit in time.

Then you’ve got flanker Olly Robinson, who is healthy and well having not been one of the Barbarians players to contract Covid, forcing the cancellation of last Saturday’s game against Samoa at Twickenham.

Fellow back rower James Botham could also possibly come into the mix, following the heel injury that delayed his return from shoulder surgery.

There are other players with plentiful regional experience in Dan Fish and Jason Tovey, plus the likes of Sam Moore and Alun Lawrence, with No. 8 Lawrence’s lineout work making him a possible second row option.

Looking at young Academy products, you’ve got Jacob Beetham, Theo Cabango, Iestyn Harris, Nathan Evans, Will Davies-King, Rhys Anstey, Ethan Lloyd, Ioan Evans and Ryan Wilkins.

Beetham has been going really well at full-back for the Cardiff RFC Premiership side, as has teenage winger Cabango, the brother of Welsh football international Ben.

They could be joined in the starting back three by the experienced and ultra-versatile Fish, with Josh Adams perhaps partnering Halaholo in the centre.

The biggest issue would be whether they have six fit front row forwards.

There are four looseheads out in South Africa in the shape of Rhys Carre, Corey Domachowski, Brad Thyer and Theo Bevacqua, while Rhys Gill is sidelined with concussion.

So it might require an SOS call to Cardiff RFC prop Thomas Davies , who has made more than 80 regional appearances for the Blues and Dragons.

There could also be issues at tighthead with the doubt over Dillon Lewis, while Academy hooker Efan Daniel is out with a broken finger.

So it’s not a straightforward selection process by any means.

There is also the question of whether it would be prudent or safe to go ahead with the fixture with so many untried youngsters on board, along with players who haven’t played for weeks due to injuries.

You do have a duty of care to your people, after all.

Cardiff could be given permission to draft in players on permit due to the special circumstances, but again slotting strangers into the set-up, with next to no preparation time, is easier said than done.

On the coaching front, Richie Rees and TR Thomas are on home soil, as is Academy manager Gruff Rees, so there are experienced bodies, but there is the question of whether there are enough people available to cover all the support staff duties.

The likelihood is the game will probably not go ahead. That seems to be the way we are going.

But if it did, you can imagine how a big Arms Park crowd would get behind the makeshift team.

Plus a bumper attendance would certainly help financially at the time when there are big costs associated with the South African situation.

So here, as an exercise in looking at the possibilities and the depth of the squad, is a 23 which could maybe be named.

Cardiff: Jacob Beetham; Dan Fish, Josh Adams, Willis Halaholo, Theo Cabango; Jason Tovey, Tomos Williams; Thomas Davies, Iestyn Harris, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Alun Lawrence, Ellis Jenkins, Olly Robinson, James Botham.

Replacements: Evan Yardley, Nathan Evans, Will Davies-King, Rhys Anstey, Sam Moore, Ethan Lloyd, Ioan Evans, Ryan Wilkins.





Source link