Cardiff Blues under-16 have confirmed their coaching teams for the second half of this season’s age grade campaign.
Following the conclusion of the Regional Age Grade Championship, where Ospreys West finished top of the pile after a final day win over title challengers RGC, a combined Cardiff Blues under-16 is selected, alongside a development squad.
Both squads will be made up of a combination of Cardiff Blues North and South players, with a number of fixtures already confirmed.
Cardiff Blues under-16 will take on Ospreys, Scarlets and Scotland Blue, while the Development side will face Dragons Development, Welsh Exiles, Gloucester, Scotland Red and an Ospreys Development team.
Craig Everett, who is a current joint head coach for Cardiff Blues under-18, will lead the Cardiff Blues under-16 coaching set-up. He will be supported by a coaching team which consists of three current senior squad members in Scott Andrews, Dan Fish and Garyn Smith.
Chad Mutyambizi will be the head coach for the Development squad. He is joined by former Cardiff Blues prop, Nathan Trevett, Dan Parry of the Cardiff Blues Community Foundation, Keri Lovell and former Wales and Cardiff full back, Justin Thomas.
Academy manager Gruff Rees is excited by the appointments, and has emphasised the importance of the pathway as a breeding ground for coaches as well as players.
Rees said: “We’re very excited by the coaching teams we have in place for the second half of the season. There are a lot of positives that we can build on following the first block of RAG Championship matches, and there’s some good, competitive matches on the horizon for these boys.
“With the combined squad, we’ve got three senior squad members involved. They’re young, hungry individuals, and led by a more experienced coach in Craig Everett there is a lot of potential in that group.
“They’ve come through the pathway themselves, they understand the region and what it means to be a Cardiff Blues player, and we hope that can be transferred onto the players. They also understand the system, having played at the highest level, and that is perfect when we strive for consistency throughout our pathway, both on and off the field.
“The development coaches is also a group of promising and local coaches, who have done brilliant work with age grade teams or within our community game, and we want to give them an opportunity here.
"They will be led by Chad Mutyambizi, who is one of the most experienced age grade coaches in Wales, and he'll be a perfect fit in developing the younger coaches. We're also delighted that Justin Thomas, who worked with the under-18 side, will also be involved. He's an experienced international player who has had a really positive impact with the age grade system so far.
“Of course, everyone is going to look at player development and identification during this process. But for us there is a bigger picture, and the development, progress and promotion of local coaches is just as important for us."
Aled James, who was also a head coach for the title-winning under-18 side, will be switching to a new role within the pathway system, and Rees has emphasised the importance of the new role when it comes to talent identification.
“Aled, who was heading up the under-18 side with Craig, will now turn his attention to his role as a talent pathway manager for the region.
“Following a recent independent commission review, it became apparent that, whilst there is a lot of potential within the region, we still need to do more in terms of pooling resources working more effectively and collaborating better with our key development partners within the region.
“We’re looking to further enhance our talent identification between the ages of 15 and 18-plus, and Aled is a strong strategic thinker, and has a depth of knowledge when it comes to the link between the community and high-performance game, which makes his a real asset for this role.
“We still value him highly as a talented coach, and he’ll continue to be involved in some coaching aspects within the pathway, but we feel this is a move that can develop and challenge Aled whilst also benefitting Cardiff Blues and the players within the pathway.”
Cardiff Blues Under-16 coaches
Craig Everett - Head Coach
Dan Fish - Attack Coach
Scott Andrews - Forwards Coach
Garyn Smith - Defence Coach
Cardiff Blues Under-16 Development coaches
Chad Mutyambizi - Head Coach
Justin Thomas - Backs Coach
Dan Parry - Skills Coach
Keri Lovell - Forwards Coach
Nathan Trevett - Scrum Coach