Having returned to the Arms Park after a period playing in England, cardiffblues.com caught up with Gary Powell to review the last season and look forward to the 07/08 season.
Gary, you returned to the Arms Park last year after a spell here as a youngster, what are your impressions of your first season back?
I had a few ups and downs over the course of the season but Im happy with how the season went. We competed well in the league but wed like to be more competitive in the Heineken Cup. To come down to the wire for the Magners League was good and wed like to build on that this season. Reaching the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup was also a positive. It was just a shame that on the day the Ospreys had the better of us, but I think it makes it an exciting tie for the opening game of the season.
In the league, we challenged well and pushed them all the way. How do you think well fair this season?
I think we need to start well. Half way through the season I dont think we were in a good position but we had a good end to the campaign that put us in the reckoning. We have to take a step up in the tight games and be on the right side of the score line.
Obviously our home form has been excellent, we didnt lose in the league for all of last season, its the away matches that are crucial
Although we managed to pinch a few away wins at the end of last season, important ones like out in Munster, I think thats something we can look at and try to improve throughout the season.
How do you think the league will be affected by the world cup this season?
We have six Blues players in the World Cup squad, which is great for them, but were still going to have a competitive squad here which is important. Its lucky for us weve got a couple of overseas boys here as well, so I think the core of the squad is still very strong. Obviously itll get stronger when the rest of the boys get back from the RWC, but during the World Cup it could be a chance for us to be out on top.
You were saying that youve been joined by some foreign players, how are they and the other new signings settling in?
Really well. Fish (Paul Tito) has brought some good lineout ideas with him and performed well in the warm up matches. Xavier and Ben Blair were excellent for us last season, as they have been since they came over.
Why do they call him Fish?
I think its because of his golden hair
like a gold fish
Its not because hes a bit of a catch?
No, but they do call him Big Red as well.
Youve been training hard, I understand the training camp in Limerick was gruelling week for you all?
Yeah it was gruelling. It was tough from day one but the boys all dug in and we worked our socks off with up to 4 sessions a day. It was a good week to come through. We were all together in Limerick in the halls of residence, so I think it was good for the team to bond with the new signings and the youngsters.
Over the summer, what other things have you been doing with yourself outside of rugby?
Ive just been chilling out, recovering from last season. Ive been on holidays with my girlfriend and been down to Cornwall a couple of times so its been pretty good. Weve been back now 7 or 8 weeks and trainings been quite intense but were looking forward to the League to start.
I heard that youve been out sailing as well?
Yes weve been doing a bit with a couple of the boys from the other regions. We had a race around Cardiff Bay which was exciting but we lost to the Gwent Dragons 2-1.
So youre looking to get revenge on the pitch then?
Definitely, and we owe them one after last year also.
What are your personal goals for this season, you were unlucky last year with being called to the Welsh squad then being made unavailable?
I just want to play well for the Blues and for us to be competitive. Whatever happens from there is a bonus really, but I just want to concentrate on getting fully fit and securing my place down here.
Youve had experience of playing with in England with Richmond, Leeds and Gloucester. Well be facing more English opposition than usual this season, how do you think well fair in the Heineken and the EDF Cups?
I think weve got to learn from last seasons Heineken Cup. Its good that weve got Gloucester in the pre-season friendly so itll be good to see where theyre at. For the Heineken games the crowds should be big and theyll be competitive matches. We can look forward to it this year. Weve got a good group with the Harlequins and Bristol. Theyre two good teams but the way we played last season I dont think we should fear them at all.