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Cardiff Blues

 Cardiff Blues
       Cardiff Arms Park
       Westgate Street
       Cardiff
       CF10 1JA
 029 2030 2016
 http://www.cardiffblues.com

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Cardiff Blues (Welsh: Gleision Caerdydd) are a professional rugby union team based in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. The team play at Cardiff Arms Park and are owned by Cardiff Rugby Football Club Ltd.

In addition to the capital, Cardiff Blues are responsible for developing rugby union in the Vale of Glamorgan, parts of the old county of Mid Glamorgan and Southern Powys.

Their main domestic league is the Magners League which is a Celtic competition involving Welsh, Irish and Scottish teams. In addition, Cardiff Blues compete in the Anglo-Welsh EDF Energy Cup and European Heineken Cup. The club have qualified for the Heineken Cup every season, but have yet to win honours in one of their competitions.

The team's main sponsor is currently the low cost airline BMIBaby. The Cardiff Blues kit is manufactured by Canterbury of New Zealand.

History
Rebranding

Up to the 2003-04 season, Welsh rugby was organised in a typical league pyramid, at the top of which were 9 professional clubs. The system was similar to the English Guinness Premiership and French Top 14 club systems. However, by the 2002-03 season it was clear for financial reasons that Wales could not support nine professional teams.

In a process instigated by the then CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), David Moffett, the nine clubs began the process of organising themselves into "regional" teams.

It was agreed that Cardiff RFC would be allowed to become a standalone club. This meant that they would continue without amalgamating with any of the other 8 clubs. They were the first to rebrand. The official Cardiff Blues rebrand event took place at the Cardiff Hilton on 6 June 2003.

2003-04
The first few months of their first season as Cardiff Blues, they continued the poor form they'd shown in the previous season as Cardiff RFC. The team lost their first three matches (friendlies against Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and a Celtic League game against Glasgow). By the end of 2003, Cardiff Blues had lost 12 matches and only won three (against Connacht, Leinster and Ospreys), all the wins coming at home. Increasingly, there were calls for head coach Dai Young to step down.

The 43-6 win over Ospreys was notable for the performance of fireman Lee Abdul. The semi-professional had been brought into the squad as cover during the 2003 Rugby World Cup and had a splendid match, scoring a record four tries from the wing. Unfortunately for Abdul, he suffered serious injury in the next home game against the Newport Gwent Dragons.

After two months without a win, January finally brought the beleaguered Cardiff Blues reason to be cheerful when Heineken Cup victories were recorded over English club Sale and French side Biarritz Olympique. The temporary signing of former Australian international Matt Cockbain seemed to revitalise the side and his brief stay coincided with a six match unbeaten run which lasted until a dour 0-6 loss to the Llanelli Scarlets in March. Cardiff Blues finished the season as the lowest ranked Welsh club in the Celtic League having only managed one win against another Welsh side. But, they were far and away the highest try scorers in the league, scoring 73 tries .

2004-05
Cardiff Blues could only manage 9th place in the league and only recorded one win in the Heineken Cup. Calls for Head Coach Dai Young to be removed intensified between November and January when the team went eight games without recording a victory. During this period, Cardiff's players suffered the ignominy of being booed from the field by their own supporters, notably during the 15-38 loss to Stade Français Paris.

For a while, it looked as though Cardiff Blues would fail to qualify for the Heineken Cup, until a late revival saw them squeeze ahead of Irish province Connacht in the Celtic League. This saw Cardiff Blues given the opportunity of qualifying for the Heineken Cup via what was described by the media as the cat flap.

This was a play off game in Italy versus the third placed Italian side Arix Viadana. Cardiff Blues won the game 38-9. This was only their second away win of the season. It was clear that this kind of form could not be tolerated and, behind the scenes, the board made plans to ensure that performance on the field would dramtically improve the following season.

2005-06
In the Welsh summer of 2005 funds were finally made available to sign new, quality players and Dai Young was able to start rebuilding his side. Former New Zealand No.8 Xavier Rush was among several new signings who gave the squad a much stronger look on paper. Also, a new custom built training head-quarters was established at Hensol in the outskirts of Cardiff. Previously the team had been training on public fields and in public gyms.

There was further reason for optimism when the Heineken Cup draw was announced. Cardiff Blues were matched with Italian minnows Calvisano, notoriously poor travellers USA Perpignan and the Leeds Tykes. Many believed that Cardiff Blues had a golden opportunity of finally making the Heineken Cup quarter finals.

Initially, results did not improve dramatically. A 37-20 win over Saracens in October 2005 was the bright point in a disappointing start to the season. The game was also notable for the prematch announcement of a genuine transfer coup. Rugby legend Jonah Lomu had agreed to join Cardiff Blues on a temporary basis as he tried to rebuild his career in time for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Lomu was recovering from a kidney transplant and was a shadow of his former self but the signing gave notice of the team's renewed ambition. His home debut versus Calvisano was greeted by a capacity crowd and the signing was regarded as a marketing masterstroke. December wins over the Ospreys and the Newport Gwent Dragons followed.

The team came crashing down to earth in January of 2006. They were knocked out of the Heineken Cup after losing at home 3-21 to Perpignan and being humiliated 3-48 by the relegation threatened Leeds Tykes. This formed part of a 5 match losing run, coinciding with the loss through injury of outside half Nick Robinson. The poor run prompted the management to issue "final warnings" to under performing players.  As with the two previous seasons, Cardiff Blues improved dramatically in the last few months of the season. After winning six games in succession they briefly looked capable of winning the Celtic League and ended the season ranked 4th, the highest placed Welsh team. In May, the Celtic League attendance record was broken when 15,327 watched Cardiff Blues beat Leinster 40-31 at the Millennium Stadium.

2006-07
More signings, including former New Zealand fullback Ben Blair, further enhanced the quality of the Cardiff Blues squad for the 2006-07 season. Several young players from the regional academy also became established players, including Chris Czekaj and Duane Goodfield. The emergence of other highly tipped young players (notably Bradley Davies and Tom James) encouraged the belief that Cardiff Blues can soon start challenging for major honours. London Wasps, Saracens and London Irish were all defeated in the EDF Cup group stages, however the Ospreys defeated the Blues 27-10 in the semi final at the Millennium Stadium on March 24 2007.

In the Heineken Cup, Cardiff Blues recorded their first win in France, beating Bourgoin 13-5. For their next game, the Cardiff Blues again played at the Millennium Stadium. This time hosting Leicester Tigers, they attracted their highest ever Heineken Cup crowd, with 26,309 spectators attending the game, although they lost they game by 17 points to 21 after being down to 14 men for a long period of the game. Cardiff Blues were finally knocked out of the Heineken Cup after successive losses to the champions, Munster, despite respectable performances (particularly at Munster's Thomond Park).

In the final game of the season, Cardiff beat Leinster to go top of the Magners League. However, the following day, Ospreys won at Borders and claimed the title.

2007-08
Signings
Further additions to the Blues squad over the summer include Gareth Thomas, Paul Tito and Jason Spice, who was brought in to replace Mike Philips who signed to the Ospreys for a reported £180,000 a year.

Magners League
The Blues won their first two games of the season, beating the Ospreys at home in the opening match and extending their unbeaten home record to sixteen games, and recording an away win at Newport Gwent Dragons the following week to top the table. The Blues extended their unbeaten home record to seventeen games the following week with a home victory against Glasgow, but subsequently lost their next home game against Leinster conceding two interception tries.

The Blues responded to the defeat against Leinster with an away victory over Munster, only the second time in the history of the Celtic League that the Blues maintained their position at the top of the league. The following week saw a 30-16 home victory against Connacht, with Gareth Thomas making his first appearnce in Blues colours, coming on off the bench after 50 minutes to replace wing Rhys Williams.

EDF Cup
The EDF Cup started well for the Blues with a 32-15 bonus point win at home over Sale. Cardiff scoring four tries in the first 30 minutes with Gareth Thomas getting two of these on his first start for the Cardiff Blues. In the second week of the EDF Cup the Blues lost 42-20 against Leicester Tigers, effectively knocking them out of the EDF Energy Cup. In the final pool game of the competition the Blues ended Bath RFCs twelve-month unbeaten home record, winning 6-14 at the Recreation Ground. This win however was insufficient, with Leicester progressing to the semi-finals as a result of having gained a bonus point in every pool macth.

Heineken Cup
The Blues began their Heineken Cup campaign with a bonus point 34-18 home win over Bristol, and followed this with a 13-13 away draw at Harlequins. In December, the Blues secured a losing bonus point in their 12-6 loss against Stade Francais in Paris, and subsequently won the return fixture 31-21 the following week. A 23-12 home win over Harlequins followed by a 17-0 away win at Bristol secured qualification to the quarter-final stages as the fifth seed. The Blues subsequently lost their away quarter-final 41-17 against Toulouse on April 6.

Colours
On their inception, the Cardiff Blues kit corresponded with the traditional Cardiff RFC colours of cambridge blue and black. Each season's kit was a variation of these colours with white being used as an alternative strip in the case of a colour clash with the opposition.

In 2006, Cardiff Blues changed their playing strip. For the first time black was not included alongside the blue. This was widely interpreted as being a tentative move away from the old Cardiff RFC identity.

Identity controversy
At the event launching the Cardiff Blues brand in June 2003, the Chief Executive, Robert Norster said, "A huge amount of effort has been made to ensure that the past 127 years of club traditions are not lost. We are delighted by the way these aspects have been respected and retained within the new modern brand." Supporters saw the "new" team as a continuation of Cardiff RFC and the addition of the "Blues" moniker as merely a cosmetic exercise. This close association with Cardiff RFC has led to feelings of resentment from members and supporters of other Welsh rugby clubs, notably Pontypridd.

There have been repeated calls for Cardiff Blues to drop the "Cardiff" part of their name in order to sever links with the old Cardiff RFC identity]. Proponents of this idea point to the Super 14 tournament where teams such as the Bulls and Crusaders play with no geographic locator in their name. These calls intensified when the Celtic Warriors regional team was dissolved in 2004, bringing old rivals Pontypridd within the catchment area of the Cardiff Blues region.

Regional responsibilities
Cardiff Blues are responsible for assisting the development of rugby in an area covering the City of Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, parts of the old county of Mid Glamorgan and Southern Powys.

Initially, the Cardiff Blues' region covered only the City of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. However, this was expanded upon the demise of the Celtic Warriors region after one season. Cardiff Blues employ development officers who work with schools and clubs across the region and run a rugby academy for elite players aged 16 and above.

Stadium
The Cardiff Blues currently play their home games at the Cardiff Arms Park. The Arms Park, as it is known, is dominated by the iconic Millennium Stadium towering over it next door. Access to the Arms Park North Stand is from the castle end of Westgate Street, Cardiff, whereas the South Stand is accessed via Quay Street, adjacent to the main Millennium Stadium entrance.

On occasion, Cardiff Blues have also used the Millennium Stadium for matches. There has been renewed speculation that the Cardiff Blues could move across the city to Leckwith where a new 25,000 seat stadium is to be built for Cardiff City Football Club..

Coaches
Cardiff Blues have been coached by Dai Young since they were founded. He is currently assisted by former Welsh international Robert Howley and former Canadian international Dan Baugh.

Statistics
Celtic League

Celtic League results

Season

Played

Win

Draw

Loss

BP

Points

Places

2003-04

22

11

0

11

10

54

6th

2004-05

22

8

1

11

6

40

9th

2005-06

22

11

0

9

11

63

4th

2006-07

20

13

1

6

9

63

2nd

2007-08

18

12

0

6

8

56

2nd

 

 

 


C Celtic League Cup

Celtic League Cup results

Season

Round

Match

2003-04

Quarter-final

Edinburgh Rugby 33 – 16 Cardiff Blues

 


Heineken Cup

Heineken Cup results

Season

Pool

Played

Win

Draw

Loss

BP

Points

Place

2003-04

3

6

2

0

4

3

11

2nd

2004-05

6

6

1

0

5

3

7

4th

2005-06

2

6

3

0

3

3

15

3rd

2006-07

4

6

2

0

4

1

9

3rd

2007-08

3

6

4

1

1

2

20

1st

 

Qtr-Final

Toulouse 41 - 17 Cardiff Blues


    Cardiff Blues Vs Saracens - Try by Tom Shanklin



     

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