By David Williams
A return for Dai Young or an immediate promotion for Dwayne Peel are two of the options being considered by Cardiff Blues following the departure of John Mulvihill.
Former Wales scrum-half Peel had already agreed to move from Ulster – where he is assistant coach – to the Arms Park this summer in a move announced a month ago.
It was intended for him to initially work alongside Mulvihill, but the Australian has now left the region abruptly following a poor run of results and little progress in recent months.
His removal could see Peel installed as head coach for next season, although a return to Young – who coached the Blues to some notable successes between 2003 and 2011 – is also an option being examined.
Young has been out of work since February 2020 when he left Wasps after a decade in charge, following his stint at the Blues, where he won the European Challenge Cup, the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and also took the Blues to the semi-finals of the Heineken European Cup in 2009 before they lost on penalties.
Since Young left for Wasps nine years ago, the Arms Park region have been through four full-time appointments – Phil Davies, Mark Hammett, Danny Wilson and Mulvihill – interspersed with various caretakers including Gareth Baber, Justin Burnell, Paul John and Dale McIntosh.
Current defence coach Richard Hodges has been put in charge for this Saturday’s home game against the Scarlets and could be asked to lead the team until the end of the season.
Mulvihill took over in 2018 and was in the middle of this third season, but results this season have been poor with six defeats in 11 matches. His overall record in charge in the PRO14 and Europe reads P 60 W 28 D 0 L 32, not including the recent walk-over against Stade Francais Paris. That earned him a 47% success rate during his tenure.
The low point was the New Year’s Day 17-3 defeat to the Ospreys which seemed to confirm that the Blues had settled back into also-ran status among the Welsh regions with the Scarlets and Ospreys well ahead of them. His side conceded 19 penalties and picked up three yellow cards.
When Mulvihill, 55, was appointed in succession to Danny Wilson, he came in with a new forwards coach, Tom Smith, and backs coach, Jason Strange. Strange, a coach who had enjoyed considerable success with Wales U20s and who many at the Arms Park viewed as a huge asset, lasted only one season.
Former Blues scrum-half Richie Rees was then promoted from within to fil the void, but although there were occasional glimpses of promise, the region have failed to build on the foundation left by Wilson when his Blues team won the European Challenge Cup three years ago.
When Wilson left that summer to join Wasps – frustrated by the region’s lack of ambition – he said: “I think there is a great foundation there for the next coaching group to build on.
“There are some fantastic youngsters coming through starting to become established figures and there are also some experienced figures there.
“Ultimately that has to be built on and definitely more recruitment needs to be done.”
Capped 76 times for Wales, Peel – who was heavily linked with the Ospreys at the start of last year – joined Ulster in 2017 on an initial two-year deal, extending that by a further two years in 2019.
He is now in his fourth season in Northern Ireland and Ulster are currently unbeaten in Conference A of the Guinness PRO14, having scored more tries than any other side in the Championship with an average of 5.1 tries per game.
At the time of Peel’s appointment to the Blues for next season, Mulvihill said: “We’re all really looking forward to welcoming Dwayne to our coaching group. He brings enormous experience as a player at the top level and has already transferred much of that to become a top quality coach.
“While we have a huge amount of attacking talent in our squad, we need to take our attacking play to the next level and I am confident Dwayne will help us achieve this and realise our potential.