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Great eight sign extensions with Blue and Blacks

Pathway | 14th January 2022

Cardiff have extended the contracts of eight promising academy youngsters, as they continue to invest in future generations at the Arms Park.

Seven of the homegrown talents, who have extend their deals with the club’s academy, have already featured for the first team at the capital.

Back three duo Jacob Beetham and Theo Cabango have put pen-to-paper to extend their stay at the Arms Park, and are joined by centre Ryan Wilkins and half backs Ben Burnell and Ethan Lloyd.

Elsewhere, Wales under 20 captain Alex Mann is one of three forwards to have signed an extension, alongside lock Rhys Anstey and prop Theo Bevacqua.

All eight players have featured regularly in the Indigo Group Premiership this season, with all but one turning out for Cardiff RFC.

Academy manager Gruff Rees said: “First and foremost, we are delighted to retain some of the very best young talent in Wales here at the club.

“All eight boys have earned the opportunity to continue their development at the club, and have impressed in their own rights across various aspects, both on and off the field.

“However, the challenge we’ve set these boys now is to try and make the break through into the senior environment. 

“They are here for a reason, and they will be handed opportunities to impress, there’s no doubt about that. But now is the time to show their progression from age grade rugby.

“Cardiff RFC offers us a valuable development platform within the system, and gives these boys competitive game time to complement their individual academy development plans. Likewise, Wales under-20 internationals are coming up for those that remain eligible.

“As an academy, the support and belief we get from Dai has been excellent. However, he’s operating a high performance environment where senior numbers are being reduced. 

“The message is clear - they must continue to show progress and take their opportunities with both hands. We’ve been excited to see glimpses of what they can offer but they need to show consistency in their work, on and off the field, to make a mark on the senior environment.

“We’re excited for what the future holds. These extensions are a signal of faith and commitment from the club, but now it’s time to repay that faith and really look to kick on in a crucial part of their development.”

Wing Cabango made an impression on his senior debut in the Heineken Champions Cup double header in December. 

The former Ysgol Plasmawr and Ysgol Glantaf pupil scored a sensational solo try against English champions Harlequins, and has continued to impress in the Rags jersey. 

Likewise, full back Beetham drew plaudits for his mature performance against European champions, Toulouse. Despite a red card in the latter stages of the game, the Cardiff & Vale College product received a standing ovation from the Arms Park crowd.

Ben Burnell is currently on the sidelines, recovering from a shoulder injury. However, in the early stages of the season, he was ever-present in the number 10 jersey for Pontypridd in the Premiership.

Scrum half Ethan Lloyd is another Wales under 20 international, who has been training closely alongside senior scrum halves such as Lloyd and Tomos Williams. The former Treorchy RFC product featured off the bench in Europe, having previously represented the first team in pre-season.

Centre Wilkins is another who turned out in both European matches, a mere six months after featuring for the club’s under-18 side.

Prop Theo Bevacqua joined the Blue and Blacks through the Exiles system, and established himself in the Wales under-20 front row. The loosehead prop has one URC appearance under his belt and was a member of the travel contingent to South Africa in November.

Alex Mann skippered Wales under-20 in last summer’s Six Nations campaign. The back row, who was part of the Cardiff City academy during his younger days, began his rugby career with local club Aberdare - following in the footsteps of former Blue and Blacks such as Dai Young, Owen Williams and Thomas Young.

Lock Rhys Anstey, who stands at 6ft 6in, has been regularly training with the first team at the Arms Park, making his competitive debut in Europe last month, having come through the pathway, joining the academy in 2019.