Seven Cardiff Rugby academy stars have signed new contracts to remain at the Arms Park and transition into the first-team squad.
Abrasive forwards Alex Mann, Evan Lloyd, Gwilym Bradley, Mackenzie Martin and Rhys Barratt plus exciting backs Cam Winnett and Jacob Beetham have all penned new deals and will train full-time with the senior squad.
Four of the septet have already turned out for the first-team, while all seven have consistently impressed for Cardiff RFC, proving testament to the club’s pathway and development system.
The Aberdare back-row forward came through the club’s age-grade system and has made 17 appearances for the Rags. He captained Wales Under-20s throughout two consecutive Six Nations campaigns and made his first team debut for the club in the famous European clash with Harlequins in December 2021.
He said: “It’s an absolute honour to sign with my home club and it means a lot to me as I have been here for such a long time, developing through the age-grades.
“I’m looking forward to transitioning into the senior group and the opportunity to learn from so many established professional players and coaches. That experience will be invaluable in helping me develop my own game. I’m just really excited to train, work hard and see what the future holds.”
The Penarth-born forward was educated at Stanwell High School and came through the age-grade system as a back-row. He made the switch to hooker at the beginning of 2023 and it has proved an inspired decision. Lloyd has now made 15 appearances for the Rags, winning all but one of those games.
He said: “I’m really happy to stay with Cardiff and I’m looking forward to being in and around the senior environment with transition group. The older guys have already helped me so much, particularly since moving to hooker, through that whole process and now `i am confident I can take it to the next level.
“I’m really looking forward to starting the season with a great group of boys and seeing what we can achieve.”
The dynamic flanker was identified through the Welsh Exiles system and joined the club’s academy during the 2019/20 season.
A former Bath University student, Bradley made his debut off the bench against defending league champions Leinster in November 2020. Bradley, has now amassed 13 first team appearances and 22 for the Rags, playing a part in cup and league successes.
He said: “I’m very happy to extend my stay with Cardiff - a club with such a rich history and heritage, and proud support.
“I have really enjoyed my time here so far, from learning my trade from some of the best in the game, to having the opportunity to run out at a packed Cardiff Arms Park.
“I am confident that we can build a successful future in such a rugby heartland as Cardiff and I am looking forward to playing my part in that.”
The physically imposing back-row forward has developed through the club’s age-grade system, progressing to the Rags, where he has now made 13 appearances. Standing at 6ft 5ins and tipping the scales at more than 18 stone, Martin unsurprisingly brings impressive collision dominance on either side of the ball.
He has enjoyed two years with Wales U20s, where he has amassed 11 appearances, including four in the recent World Rugby U20s Championship in South Africa.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to linking up with the boys, soaking up all of their knowledge and learning from them. I’m really happy to be able to train with some of the best players in the world and that will only help improve my skillset as both a player and person.
“I have an opportunity to show what I can do in a high level environment and a chance to push myself onto the standard of professional rugby and it is something I want to grab with both hands.
“This is my home club and I have grown up in the city so it is something really special for both myself and my family.”
The loose-head prop is another to have progressed all the way through the club’s age-grade ranks, having first played at Llantwit Fadre.
A former Wales Under-20 international, Barrett has been a regular member of the club’s travelling party in the last 18 months but is awaiting his first taste of first team action.
He has racked up 24 appearances for the Rags, contributing to their recent Indigo Group Welsh Premiership and Welsh Cup successes.
He said: “I’m really happy to sign another deal with a club which means so much to me. Cardiff is a club that have put a lot of time and effort into developing me as a person and player through the age-grade and academy and also through their links with Cardiff Met.
“It’s pretty special to come through the academy ranks with some good friends and now have the opportunity to transition into the senior squad together.
“I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and all of the experiences that will come along with it.”
The electric full-back has recently starred for Wales Under-20s, making the red number 15 jersey his own.
He made a try-scoring first team debut against Harlequins in the 2021 European Champions Cup and went to to make his United Rugby Champions hip debut in the same season. Winnett has now made four first team appearances and will link up with the squad in block three of pre-season.
Winnett said: “As someone who has grown up watching the Cardiff, it has always been a dream to play for the club. I could not be happier to be staying here, it is a club that has helped me a huge amount and I’m excited to be able to take the next step in my development
“Being able to represent the club is something I am grateful for and something neither my family or I will ever forget. I’m really determined to have the opportunity to pull the jersey on again and will work as hard as possible to do that and help the team.”
The versatile playmaker was born in Brecon but came through the Cardiff and Vale College system with the ability to play fly-half, centre and full-back.
Beetham has been a key figure for the Rags, making 19 appearances and starred for the first team in the December 2021, Champions Cup clash with Toulouse.
He missed last season after rupturing his ACL in the first game of the season but is now making a graded return to full training.
He said: “I’m very excited to continue training with the senior group at Cardiff. Having been out of action for so long it is great to get back out there and i’m now desperate to begin playing again.
“I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to pull on the blue and black jersey again, to continue my development and compete for valuable game-time at the professional level.”