Cardiff Blues are pleased to confirm the academy squad ahead of the 2018/19 season.
The confirmed list includes seven Wales Under-20 squad members for this year’s World Rugby Championship, while four players have already picked up experience in the Guinness PRO14.
Eight players will be entering their first season with the academy, including Wales Under-18 captain Ioan Rhys Davies and wing Alex Varney, who makes the switch from Scarlets.
Thirteen Cardiff Blues academy graduates were part of the matchday squad for the Challenge Cup victory over Gloucester in Bilbao in May, with the likes of Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Owen Lane and Seb Davies amongst those to make impact on the first team last season.
Transitional coach, Richie Rees, believes the academy players can be inspired from the achievements of last season’s academy squad, and is excited at the new intake of players.
"It's great to see boys that come from all over the region coming into this professional environment. We're fortunate enough to have rugby that is thriving across the region, which contribute massively to our pathway. It will make the world of difference for these boys to come together now to train and play with each other week-in, week-out," said Rees.
“We’ve seen how well the likes of Seb Davies, Jarrod Evans and Owen Lane have done for Cardiff Blues last season, while Tomos Williams also won his first cap for Wales over the summer.
“As a coaching team, we take pride in seeing young local boys playing a key role in the first team, and hopefully the current crop of academy players can see how these boys have taken their opportunity with both hands.
“There will be opportunities for these boys next season, whether that’s for the first team or in the new development A League competition, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they stand up in those differing situations which will be more pressurised. Our ultimate goal is for these players to become regular senior starters for the Cardiff Blues and I believe our pathway will give these boys that opportunity.
“The likes of Ben Jones, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Dane Blacker and Rhys Carre have been around our training base for a couple of years now, and it’s great to see them putting in the hard work, but to take the next step they must be looking to compete with the likes of Jarrod Evans & Tomos Williams and not just being content with being in the training environment. The only way they will do this I believe is by playing regular rugby.
“The majority of the academy squad have played on the international stage, whether that’s at Under-18 or Under-20 level, and that experience will be invaluable.”
Cardiff Blues academy squad:
Dane Blacker - Scrum Half
Jim Botham - Back Row
Calum Bradbury - Lock
Rhys Carre - Prop
Iestyn Harris - Hooker
Corey Howells - Wing
Shane Lewis Hughes - Back Row
Ben Jones - Outside Half
Will Davies King - Prop
Alun Lawrence - Utility Forward
Cameron Lewis - Centre
Max Llewellyn - Centre
Ben Thomas - Outside Half
New intake - 2018/19
Ioan Davies - Full Back
Ioan Rhys Davies - Back Row
Rhys Davies - Outside Half
Jamie Hill - Scrum Half
Callun James - Back Row
George Thomas - Wing
Alex Varney - Wing
Ben Warren - Prop