Cardiff Blues can today confirm that they have signed New Zealand international centre Casey Laulala, from New Zealand Super 14 side The Crusaders and former Wales and British and Irish Lions outside back, Dafydd James.
Twenty-seven year old Laulala made his debut for New Zealand against Wales in Cardiff in November 2004 and went on to play for the All Blacks against Ireland in 2006.
Described by many as one of the hardest players to contain in broken field play in the New Zealand game, Casey is the son of an airline pilot for Polynesian Airlines, and was schooled at Wesley College - the same south Auckland institution that gifted the world game former Cardiff Blue and international rugby superstar, Jonah Lomu.
Casey made his first class debut for Counties Manukau shortly after he featured in New Zealand's winning Under-19 team at the 2001 Junior World Cup in Chile. Laulala raised his 50th appearance for Canterbury during the team's Ranfurly Shield match against Auckland at the tail end of the last Air New Zealand Cup, and then brought up a half century of Super rugby appearances for the Crusaders against the Lions.
Laulala also scored the only try for the Crusaders in the 2006 Rebel Sport Super 14 final win against the Hurricanes, who had new Cardiff Blues team mate Paul Tito playing for them in the second row.
Speaking of the signing Cardiff Blues CEO, Robert Norster said;
"We are delighted to have finalised the signing of Casey for the forthcoming season. He is a quality player who has played at the highest level in New Zealand rugby over a number of years."
"Casey is not only a hard tackling centre but also a top line-breaker with great footballing abilities who is a difficult man to bring down. I'm sure he will prove to be another strong addition to our squad when he eventually arrives later in the Autumn following his Air New Zealand Cup commitments to Canterbury."
"Last season was a very successful one for the Cardiff Blues and we look forward to building on that platform supported by quality signings such as Casey as we make the move to our new home at Leckwith."
Born in Mufulira, Zambia, Dafydd James started his career at Pontypridd RFC before going on to win 48 caps for Wales at wing or centre, scoring 15 tries.
A player with a huge amount of experience of top-flight rugby, James became the first player in Heineken Cup history to score twenty-five tries in the tournament. James won an ERC Elite Award for his effort, the try came in his eleventh season of European rugby and in his fifty-first appearance in the Heineken Cup.
James has also toured with the British and Irish Lions playing in all three tests against Australia in 2001, scoring a try in the first test.
Speaking of the news, Dafydd James said, "It's a great opportunity for me to join a team that is certainly on the up after their performances last season."
"It's an exciting time to join the Blues as they move to the new stadium. They are probably the best supported team in Wales and had a huge amount of support last season in their Heineken Cup and EDF Cup matches."
"The Blues have quality on and off the pitch and Wales is such a small place I know a lot of the players from the Celtic Warriors days and playing for Wales, so I don't think there will be any problem settling in."
"It's and exiting time for me, I still have the desire to play for Wales and am totally motivated. I'm hungry to get back on the field and can't wait for the season to start."
"Dafydd, like Casey is also a hugely experienced player and will be a valuable addition to our squad," said Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby, David Young.
"Having agreed a ten month deal through Peter Grigg of Chase Sports Management, we look forward to welcoming Dafydd to the Blues almost with immediate effect. He has proved with Scarlets, Wales and the Lions that he can consistently perform at the highest level and he will provide another significant option for our team."
"Both these signings help to strengthened our player base in a number of key areas in preparation for what is sure to be another intense period of highly competitive domestic and international rugby."
"With our commitment to the national side evidenced by the increased number of Cardiff Blues players in the Wales squad, quality players such as Casey and Dafydd will ensure our playing resources are not as stretched as they sometimes have been over recent seasons."
"We saw this at the end of the last season with a build-up of games and unfortunate injuries to our international players such as Tom Shanklin and Tom James who will both miss the start of the season."
"With the Anglo-Welsh Cup matches now also being played during the autumn internationals and Six Nations having additional quality players joining the squad is great news for the strength of our team."
Principality Stadium will host the UEFA Champions League Final in six weeks' time. WRU chairman Gareth Davies, Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford and Ambassador Ian Rush joined young sports fans at the trophy arrival at the venue to celebrate the magnitude of the event on Saturday 3rd June (kick-off 19.45).
British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton is looking forward to bringing together players from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales for the biggest challenge of their careers - a series against world champions, New Zealand.
For the fifth year running, Wales referee Nigel Owens will be in charge of proceedings at Judgement Day V at Principality Stadium. It promises to be 'extra special' for the Wales' favourite ref, as he will be making his 150th appearance in the league.
There will be no shortage of inside knowledge from Bowl Finalists Caerphilly and Amman United when they face each other on Sunday at National Finals Day. Caerphilly hooker Rhys Cleverly knows the Principality Stadium pitch better than most as a matchday groundsman, while Amman United can look to Wales' record try scorer Shane Williams for some helpful advice.
Two hundred and 40 teams competed in the inaugural Urdd WRU 7s held at Pencoed last week with Welsh internationals Steff Andrews and Jasmine Joyce impressed with the talent on display, as was Urdd chief executive, Sioned Hughes.
The countdown is on for Judgement Day V as tickets for the big day at Principality Stadium soar through the 50,000 mark. Players and coaches alike are bursting at the seams to play in the double header with Dragons coach Kingsley Jones claiming there is a 'real buzz' about the event.
WRU TV went behind the scenes when the four regions got together to test their skill set for the BBC's Scrum V Live rugby show, at the WRU National Centre of Excellene in the build up to Judgement Day V. Blues' Matthew Morgan was one of the stars of the show while the Dragons' Cory Hill proved a surprise package...the full set of results will be revealed on tv screens on matchday
Wales assistant coach Richie Pugh is confident his side can cause a few headaches in the Hong Kong Sevens this weekend. In a tough group, Wales kick off their campaign against New Zealand on Friday before playing Japan and Fiji, who are chasing their third consecutive Hong Kong title, on Saturday.
Bedwas had to overcome a stubborn Carmarthen Quins side before winning the Foster's Challenge Cup final in Bridgend with a 23-18 victory. Bedwas captain Nicky Griffiths pays tribute to his side who have claimed the club's first piece of silverware in the modern era.
Team coach Brett Davey is aiming to keep his unbeaten run in cup finals at Principality Stadium intact when his side take on Amman United in the WRU Bowl final, after he guided Caerphilly to a 20-14 win against Cilfynydd in the semi-finals.
Penallta are hoping to go one step further than last season when falling to Bedlinog in the WRU Plate Final. After a titanic struggle against Nant Conwy, they have given themselves a great chance, after a hard fought 18-13 semi-final victory.