Cardiff Blues academy youngsters will look to reap the rewards from the region’s partnership with London Welsh during pre-season.
Wales under-20 duo - back row Gwilym Bradley and prop Theo Bevacqua - will train alongside the Richmond-based side as rugby prepares to return following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Both players featured for Wales under-20 during the Six Nations earlier this year, having been identified through the Welsh Exiles programme, and signed deals to join the Arms Park outfit.
Former Ospreys prop, Cai Griffiths, is Director of Rugby at Old Deer Park, while former Cardiff Blues outside half, Steven Shingler, is part of the coaching team.
John Mulvihill is confident the experience will benefit both Bradley and Bevacqua and he is delighted to maintain the strong links with the historic club.
“It gives us at Cardiff Blues great pleasure, and our academy in particular, to be able to work closely with London Welsh and the individual player development will benefit enormously,” said the Australian.
“In relation to Theo and Gwilym, our academy staff have worked closely with the Exiles programme over the past 12 months and we are thrilled that they have committed to Cardiff Blues.
“However, given the geographical issues and the uncertainty in landscape for club rugby in Wales , we are hugely grateful to Jonathan Shankland and Cai Griffiths at London Welsh for the opportunity that the boys will have at such a great club with a rich history and connection to Welsh rugby.
“Having said that, this is not just a nod to nostalgia and we are quite certain that the players will receive a high level performance programme in line with our academy standards that are aligned well with the ambitions of London Welsh.
“We will be monitoring closely through the summer and will look further at the players individual development plan in due course and indeed plan for future link ups between us and London Welsh.”
London Welsh has a rich history of Welsh internationals at the club, including the likes of JPR Williams, John Dawes, John Taylor, Mervyn Davies and Cardiff Arms Park favourites Gerald Davies and Tom Shanklin.
Links with Wales’ Capital Region have remained strong over the years, with Cardiff Blues players and coaches regularly visiting Old Deer Park to hold training sessions with the club’s junior players.
Director and Head of Men's Rugby Jonathan Shankland believes the both parties will benefit from the relationship, and he is excited to welcome Bradley and Bevacqua to the club.
Shankland added: “It is excellent for us to have two such talented Welsh players with us and to add their standards and dynamic to our pre-season preparations.
“It is great to play our part in extending the reach of regional rugby outside of Wales as the WRU and regions look to retain talent and become more flexible in their facilitating of modern professional rugby.
“It is particularly apt that the rekindled relationship with Cardiff Blues comes at such an exciting time for our great club more generally, both on and off the field.
“Cardiff Blues have some exciting times ahead and we look forward to playing our part both this season and going forwards into the future as the ties are strengthened yet further under this initiative."