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Cardiff boys need to ham it up to banish their blues

By Michael Sadlier

The word is that things have changed around Cardiff Blues, what with a new coach coming on board, fresh and notable faces being included to the playing roster and now even a former star name being linked to a possible return as the acrimony flies over in southern France.

Results haven't exactly matched the Blues' stated determination for change and even though they ultimately pulled it together for a bonus point win at Zebre – who beat them in both league games last season – this was followed up last week by a heavy home defeat to Glasgow.

Still, it's early enough to turn things around, though most of tonight's pre-match soundbites have rightly been drowned out by the row which has erupted over in Toulon about former Blues player Leigh Halfpenny, with the French giants' owner, Mourad Boudjellal, claiming that he wouldn't be averse to tearing up the Welsh star's contract such is the international's unreadiness – due to the groin problem which has caused the furore – to play for the current Top 14 and European champions.

Amid all the rancour up stepped Halfpenny's former club to state that they would be very happy to welcome him back. Yes, the Blues were out of the traps quickly on that one and, for once, it must have felt good as it wasn't themselves in the firing line over something not obviously working out the way it was intended.

Indeed, the very notion of a returned Halfpenny – even an unfit one – would boost a Blues squad which has recruited well in the off-season, with the poaching of Adam Jones from the Ospreys a particularly notable coup.

And Gareth Anscombe's signature should prove to be particularly notable as the former Chiefs player arrives in the Principality next month – it would have been interesting had the former Ulster coach's son been available for tonight – to potentially stake his place as Wales' new out-half

New coach Mark Hammett is also bringing a fresh energy to matters and the former Hurricanes boss is a typically straight-talking Kiwi who wants to achieve and change the rather lacklustre mentality that seems to have hung around the Arms Park now for rather a lengthy period of time. If nothing else, he's certainly making the right noises.

"We have had to deal with adversity for the first time this season (after Glasgow) but have responded by showing the right attitude," said Hammett.

"Now we need to take that mentality and determination into the Ulster game."

The Blues coach has made three changes to his line up with out-half Gareth Davies, back rower Josh Navidi and wing Richard Smith all being given their first league starts of the season.

There are also a couple of positional changes with Rhys Patchell moving to full-back and giving Lewis Jones a new half-back partner in the shape of Davies while Adam Thomas shifts to outside centre from 15 with Cory Allen dropping to the bench.

They are strong and, in addition to Adam Jones, have Matthew Rees, Josh Turnbull and new signing Jarrad Hoeata packing down in the engine room alongside former Ulster squad member Filo Paulo, while out wide lurks the dangerous Alex Cuthbert.

If Hammett is to make an impact, the Blues now need to avoid back-to-back home defeats.

Belfast Telegraph


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