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."
GB7s women left their England base to train in Wales this week. Olympic Games hopeful Rachael Burford gives WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie her thoughts on Welsh teammate Jasmine Joyce - a 'one touch wonder'
The GB7s women's squad is currently training at Wales' Centre of Excellence where assistant coach Richie Pugh tells WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie some 'tough calls' will have to be made when it comes to finalising the 12 spots for Rio's Olympic Games.
Wales U20's Billy McBryde is looking forward to starting his first game against New Zealand this afternoon in the World Rugby U20 Championship where his side are looking to gain revenge from last week's pool defeat to the Kiwis.