CARDIFF is becoming a hotbed for rugby 7s talent according to Cardiff Blues' Elite Performance Pathway Manager Richard Hodges, as they prepare to launch their assault on this year's Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series.
BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park will host the first leg of this year’s competition in exactly a month’s time, with the Blues hoping to make their mark on home soil.
Wales 7s starlets Adam Thomas, Owen Jenkins and Ben Roach have all plied their trade for the Blues, and Hodges is hopeful fans will get to see them strut their stuff at the July showcase.
Add into the mix several other players with World Series 7s or international under-20s experience and a host of academy starlets hopeful of catching the eye, and Hodges is confident the Blues can go all the way to the finals.
“If you look at last season, we had the likes of Owen Lane playing, who was still in school,” he said.
“He played in the Singha 7s, and then went on to play for the first XV the next week against Bristol Rugby, so it does give the entire group a great opportunity to impress.
“We’re looking to involve a lot of the more senior academy boys who will be looking to catch the eye of the first team coaches.
“Plus, they will be the first side to run out in the new season at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, and it will be live on TV as well – it’s a level exposure most of them won’t have experienced before.
“But we’ll be looking to get some first team experience in there too, and we have a lot of World Series 7s experience in the Blues first team squad with the likes of Tomos Williams, Lewis Jones and Garyn Smith who have all played there for Wales in the last few months.
“Paul John and myself have experience coaching on the World Series as well, and we’d like to have some core 7s players like Adam Thomas, Owen Jenkins and Ben Roach back into the group too.”
It is an exciting time for rugby 7s with the sport about to leap into the limelight in its first appearance at the Olympic Games since 1924.
Aviva Premiership Rugby leads the way when it comes to club 7s, and after this year's Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series kicks off in Cardiff, it will visit Exeter, Northampton and Newcastle before the showpiece final in Coventry on 7 August.
And after missing out on the finals last season, losing to Welsh regional rivals Scarlets, Ospreys and eventual champions Newport Gwent Dragons in the qualifier, Hodges admits the Blues will be a big focus on improving that return this term.
He said: “The first year playing at our home ground we did really well and got to the final, but last year wasn’t so good for us as we started poorly.
“There is a very unforgiving environment in 7s rugby, we learnt that last year, so we’ll need to put a lot of emphasis on that first game.
“But there is a balance to be found between winning and getting experience of senior rugby for Cardiff Blues – it will be a great evening out and hopefully everyone can enjoy some thrilling rugby.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 22 July at Cardiff with the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit http://www.premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets