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Tomlinson backed to make step up as he hits a ton for Cardiff.

Byline: MATTHEW SOUTHCOMBE Sports writer matthew.southcombe@walesonline.co.uk

Tomlinson backed to make step up as he hits a ton for Cardiff's Joey Tomlinson reaches a century of appearances today MONEY might be tight at the regions these days, but looking overseas for new signings appears to remain in vogue.

Sometimes, though, the answer is right under your nose.

Today, when Cardiff RFC face Llandovery in the semi-final of the National Cup at The Gnoll (2.30pm), captain Joey Tomlinson will make his 100th appearance for the Blue and Blacks.

Those sounded out by the Echo consider him to be one of the best, if not the very best, player the Premiership has to offer and Welsh rugby could be about to lose him.

Tomlinson has had English Championship clubs show an interest in the past and there is currently an exciting overseas offer on the table.

So what makes the 26-year-old so good? Welsh legend Gethin Jenkins and fellow former international T Rhys Thomas have been impressed since they took up coaching roles with Cardiff last year.

That in itself is reason to take an interest and there's a lot to like.

As a captain, he leads by example - often the most effective method of leadership - in the way he carries himself and by being the hardest worker on the field.

He possesses all the technical qualities that you need in a hooker but, as we know, there is far more demanded of front-row forwards now.

Tomlinson is very much in the mould of a modern-day No.2, with good hands and an apparent base level of strength and fitness that would be required to make it at the top level.

He takes a keen interest in training and staying fit away from rugby, almost training like a professional just without the equipment and time afforded to the pros.

Ahead of his 100th appearance for Cardiff RFC, to find out more, who better to ask than the former international front-rowers currently coaching him.

"I think the main thing is his attitude and his hunger to improve," said Jenkins.

"Plus you have to have that base of fitness and strength to play in the position that he's playing and that's there.

"There are no guarantees that he'd be able to do it at regional level, but he's got a lot of the things you need to make it at the top level.

"He's been one of Cardiff's most consistent performers in the Premiership for a number of years."

Thomas added: "He's got a great work ethic, he's very fit and he basically behaves like a professional without the facilities or the time.

"Based on what I've seen and what I like in a player... he's got work-rate, the right attitude and technical ability."

You can look at Tomlinson's age two ways.

On the one hand, there is the adage that if a player hasn't made it by the time they're 23, they never will.

But the more rational way of looking at things is that because the hooker, who works as an oral care consultant for Colgate, knows what life is like without professional rugby, he'll value it more.

There is a school of thought that the jump from Premiership to PRO14 rugby is just too great. Many have tried, but not all succeed.

Tomlinson has represented the Blues in the Singha 7s and has played the Cardiff Blues Premiership Select side in the past.

He has all the attributes and there is every reason to believe that he would make an impression in preseason at regional level.

As he stands on the verge of a landmark achievement, Welsh rugby risks losing one of its brightest semi-professional talents.

Given the lack of opportunity in Wales, who could blame him for upping sticks and moving abroad? Joey Tomlinson could slip away without the regions even realising what they'd lost.

Merthyr must play it smart - Chief DALE McIntosh has told his Merthyr side not rise to Pontypool's bait if they are to reach the WRU National Cup final.

Merthyr face Pontypool at the Eugene Cross Park today, with the Championship outfit having already knocked Cross Keys and Bridgend out of the cup.

Despite currently occupying top spot in the Principality Premiership McIntosh is wary of a Pontypool outfit who have won their previous 25 games in succession.

"The Pontypool game is going to be massive," he said.

"They've signed well and I know the make-up of their squad. They have some very, very good rugby players there. They've been unbeaten for a long time and were excellent against Bridgend. We need to be streetwise and smart."

Meanwhile, six games will take place in the Principality Premiership this weekend with relegation-threatened Cross Keys desperate for a victory as they travel to Aberavon.

Bridgend are presented with a golden opportunity to climb out of the relegation places as they travel to Bedwas. Fourth-placed Ebbw Vale face travel to Carmarthen Quins while Bargoed host Swansea.

Llanelli play RGC1404 at Parc Y Scarlets tomorrow (1pm), while Newport host Pontypridd (2.30pm).

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Cardiff's Joey Tomlinson reaches a century of appearances today
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 6, 2019
Words:857
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