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Home » How to » The inside story of the Gareth Anscombe transfer and what it means for the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues

The inside story of the Gareth Anscombe transfer and what it means for the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues

It was put to one Welsh rugby player in the late 1990s that Richmond RFC, then one of the English game’s big spending clubs, were interested in him as he headed towards the end of his contract.  

His response? “That’s the first I’ve heard of it. But you can write it, anyway.”

No worries: those shelling out the money in transfers play similar games.

The truth, as the old TV series X-Files speculated, is out there somewhere.

And so to Gareth Anscombe’s decision to take flight from Cardiff Blues to the Ospreys.

It’s understating it to say he’s had a hard time of it on social media and beyond. In fact, maybe the man who took aim at Bambi’s mother has had a better press in recent weeks.  

The saga has dragged on and Anscombe appealed at the level his salary was capped at.

Then there were high-profile links with English clubs, with talk of a potential £500,000 offer from Bristol. Some were disgusted at the prospect of the New Zealander with a Welsh mother trading in a World Cup spot for a bumper wage.

But was that really the case? Was it all part of the negotiating progress or was it not even that?

Whatever, here are the twists and turns of the move west and how it will affect those involved…

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THE SAGA OF THE SEASON

Contrary to general belief, it wasn’t mentioned in the Domesday Book that Gareth Anscombe from the banks of the Taff was considering upping sticks and plying his trade around the mouth of the Tawe.

It really wasn’t.

It just seems that way.

Whatever, this one has been simmering for quite a while.

There have been stories of Anscombe being linked to clubs in England and Japan and no doubt some of those outfits would have paid him well.

But the word is no firm offer was ever made and the fly-half or full-back never actively pursued such options to the point where a switch over the Severn Bridge or further afield was likely.

Anscombe was quoted as saying after Wales won the Grand Slam: “Players have been let down a fair bit certainly when you look at the results we have provided them. We all want to play for Wales — there’s no doubt about that —  but players need to be treated well and we deserve to be.”

 

Asked amid the Project Reset uncertainty and pay restructuring whether a number of Welsh players were thinking of leaving the regional scene to pursue potentially lucrative deals in England, he replied: “I think it’s made all the boys think about that, to be honest. We’ve got only a 10-year window to really look after ourselves, and I guess the important thing is you don’t want to look back with any regrets.”

Maybe that’s cause for some to throw their hands in the air and express outrage.

Or maybe it’s a player trying to avoid selling himself short ahead of an appeal against the cap on his wage.

If it were the latter, he wouldn’t be the first player in the history of professional rugby to try to improve his situation through the press.

Did he ever want to give up playing for Wales and a lifetime of memories for potentially £100,000 a year more in England?   

Well, he made a huge decision in the first place to emigrate from New Zealand to Wales. It would have been an astoundingly big call to jack in his Test career just months out from a World Cup.

The whole process has been slow.

It took five weeks from when Anscombe learned of his projected salary to having his appeal heard.

Such time allowed the rumour mill to go into overdrive.   

WHAT HAPPENED AT HIS SALARY APPEAL AND WHAT SORT OF MONEY HE IS NOW ON



WRU Chief Executive Martyn Phillips

 

Well, the appeal against the salary Anscombe is deemed worthy of didn’t go his way.

It is understood Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips, Professional Rugby Board chairman David Lovett and players union boss Andries Pretorious were in attendance.

But the appeal fell on deaf ears.

It is believed Anscombe fell into the bracket capped at around £300,000.

There has been talk of a potential £350,000 pay situation, but without seeing his wage slip it’s hard to  be precise.

Upwards of £300,000 at the Ospreys, for definite, then.

How much upwards we can only surmise.

WHAT THE MOVE MEANS FOR SAM DAVIES



Sam Davies of Ospreys kicks a penalty

Sam Davies of Ospreys kicks a penalty

 

It’s been a tough season for the 2013 world junior player of the year.

When he has played behind a full strength Ospreys pack he has looked the part.

But too often the forwards in front of him have been shorn of leading names due to Wales commitments.

He remains a classy game controller, but the Ospreys selectors have been picking Luke Price and so Davies must wonder about his future.

The Dragons have been linked to him and he would be a good signing for them.

But if the Ospreys have enough money might they try to retain him in their squad during a World Cup season when Anscombe will be away for long periods with Wales?

The Dragons option for Davies seems likelier.

But nothing is sealed yet.

HOW THE MOVE WILL AFFECT CARDIFF BLUES



Jarrod Evans of Cardiff Blues

 

Some believe the impact of Anscombe leaving will be negligible on the Blues.

Maybe if everyone stays fit that might prove the case.

But injuries happen in professional rugby and rare is the time when a club or region are able to field all their best players.

It will be one thing to have Hallam Amos, Josh Adams, Jarrod Evans and Matthew Morgan on hand; quite another to see them on the pitch together regularly every weekend.

The strongest sides in Europe have that priceless commodity of depth. It allows them to rest players and cover during international windows. It enables them to take matches away from opponents by the power of their benches. It separates the best from the rest. Retaining Anscombe would have been a step towards the Blues enjoying such a luxury.  

But, Welsh rugby being Welsh rugby, hard financial choices often prevent such depth being achieved.

There’s more. Anscombe is experienced and tough mentally. In short, he is a winner and it matters.

Jarrod Evans is exceptionally talented, but he is still putting miles on the clock.

IS HE A PR SIGNING FOR THE OSPREYS OR WILL HE HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT?

The Ospreys were almost wiped from the rugby map barely a month ago, so they could be forgiven for wanting to make some kind of statement.

But splashing out so heavily on one player solely for that reason would be a risky strategy by any standard.

Anscombe will lift the Ospreys for the same reason that he will be missed by the Blues. He takes responsibility, believes in himself, has vision, is versatile and can raise his game when the pressure is on.

His Test commitments next season mean he will not be seen much.

But that he is a quality player is not in doubt. 



Gareth Anscombe

WHAT DOES THE SIGNING SAY IN LIGHT OF THE RECENT MERGER CHAOS?

The Ospreys would like it to scream out that they’re here to say, that’s for sure.

And for a leading player to have shown such faith in the region by committing his future to them is significant.

Alun Wyn Jones and Nicky Smith re-signing would send out a similar message.

But if the events of early March taught us anything it is that Welsh rugby is capable of anything.

Long-term, nothing seems certain for any region any more.   

WHY THE OSPREYS?



Matt Sherratt has joined Wales, so who is he?

Matt Sherratt

 

The assumption is the chance to work with Matt Sherratt was a big lure.

Also, Anscombe has sometimes had to share the No. 10 spot at the Blues with Jarrod Evans. The strategy has worked well for them, but if a player is the Wales No. 10 the assumption is he will want to play in that position without question for his region.

Sherratt did a fine job at the Blues and he will not be unhappy about having the chance to work with Anscombe again.    

 

VERDICT

Welsh rugby will probably benefit from the move because it will allow Anscombe to potentially be a first-choice 10 and the same goes for Jarrod Evans. Rhys Patchell has the same opportunity at the Scarlets and we await with interest what Sam Davies will do.

The Blues can use the money they will save to reinforce their pack, while the Ospreys have a ready-made backline leader.

It is never win-win-win in these situations, and no doubt some at the Arms Park will lament Anscombe’s departure.

But it is sport and such moves happen.

The world will keep spinning.

Next season, there will doubtless be another high-profile switch somewhere. Nothing stays the same indefinitely.

 

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