The most pressing problem each Welsh region has as they all look to bounce back from a torrid 2018-19 campaign

It may seem like we’ve only just closed the book on the 2018-19 campaign, but Wales’ four regions soon begin their preparations for next season with players reporting back for training.

They will hope to improve markedly. None of them qualified during the normal league programme last term for the knockout stage of Europe’s Champions Cup or the second-tier Challenge tournament.

And Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys or Scarlets all failed to make the title play-offs of the Guinness PRO14.

Ospreys amassed the most points, ahead of the Blues and the Scarlets, with the Dragons having an astonishing 26 fewer than 2016-17 PRO12 kings Scarlets.

Only the Ospreys qualifed for the Champions Cup – via the back-door and a play-off victory over the Scarlets at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.

All of them have, or have had, key areas that needed reinforcing. Here’s the biggest problem each region has faced and how they have addressed it.

Video Loading

Video Unavailable

OSPREYS

The four-time league champions are still waiting on Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones to put pen to paper on a new contract.

They’d hoped to have had the deal formally completed months ago but the way it’s dragged on has put a question-mark over his future.

Could he move from the region where he has spent all his career or hang up his boots and retire after leading serious World Cup contenders Wales into battle in Japan this autumn?

However, the Ospreys should be able to cope whatever Jones, who will be 34 in September, decides.

More importantly for them, they need to resolve the situation at No.8 with Gareth Evans having been brought in from Gloucester.



Gareth Evans has joined the Ospreys from Gloucester

They have suffered in the position since three-times capped Wales international Dan Baker suffered a serious knee injury 18 months ago.

His absence resulted in a lack of go-forward from the position as they turned to a number of non-specialists with varying degrees of success.

If the athletic Evans can make a mark and Baker can get back on the playing paddock, it should give the Ospreys a double boost and more ball-carrying power.

It used to be a position of serious strength when former Wales captain Ryan Jones and ex-All Black Filo Tiatia were on their books.

 

CARDIFF BLUES

Managing to convince the WRU to sanction the retention of veteran New Zealand bruiser Nick Williams was a necessity.

Without his bulk and power – he’s also an immovable object when he gets his hands on the ball at the breakdown – you’d fear for their chances.

You wonder why they signed Six Nations Grand Slam star Josh Adams and his Wales teammate Hallam Amos, who are both wings or full-backs, when their problems lie up front.

One of them would have been sufficient because they continue to be in desperate need of bolstering their lock resources.



Josh Turnbull (with ball) has been plugging a hole at lock with Cardiff Blues

They have been light in that department with back-rower Josh Turnbull being forced to paper over the crack out of position in difficult circumstances.

Seb Davies, Rory Thornton and Shane Lewis-Hughes are work in progress but they could do with an experienced and aggressive lock.

They had acquired one in South Africa international Franco van der Merwe but he was released without playing a game because of financial constraints.

But two years further down the line they could still do with that type of experienced figure.

 

SCARLETS

Last season was traumatic for the west Wales rugby outpost with an horrific catalogue of injuries which deprived them of key personel.

They were unable to field their first-choice back-row of Aaron Shingler, Blade Thomson and James Davies on any occasion while key lock Jake Ball spent too much time on the sidelines.

But it was another position which will be concerning incoming coach Brad Mooar for the coming campaign, namely outside-half.

Rhys Patchell went from being an impressive controller at No.10 for Wales during last June’s back-to-back successes in Argentina to a shadow of his former self.



Rhys Patchell suffered last season after being sidelined by injuries

 

The latest concussion of his career seemed to badly dent his confidence in defence.

A second lengthy lay-off, recovering from a damaged hamstring, didn’t help either and the rest of his game unravelled when he returned to action.

With departing coach Wayne Pivac, who succeeds Warren Gatland with Wales, having picked centre Hadleigh Parkes as an emergency outside-half ahead of Patchell and former Wales Under-20 international Dan Jones because of a superior defence there was a perfect storm.

It’s critical for the Scarlets that Patchell and Jones regain their confidence.

The arrival of a new voice in Mooar could help in that quest because he will need one or both of them to stamp their authority on matches.

DRAGONS



Outside-half Sam Davies is a crucial signing for the Dragons

 

Visionary play-maker Paul Turner used to transform teams on a regular basis when he flirted between Newbridge, London Welsh and Newport in the 1990s.

Those clubs would go from being rudderless at No.10 to sides capable of beating anybody with the arrival of the mercurial general and master tactican.

Ditto Dan Biggar. You can see the impact he has had on Northampton Saints by guiding them from being on the fringes of the relegation dog-fight in the Gallagher Premiership to the title play-offs.

Let’s not beat around the bush, if Biggar had joined the Dragons he would have pulled what is on paper a talented squad up by the bootlaces with his winning mentality, drive and leadership qualities.

But he’s not returning to Wales and that job has gone to his former understudy at the Ospreys and Wales, Sam Davies.

It’s a pivotal move in the career of the eight-times capped international and a massive opportunity for him to force his way back into the Wales frame.

If Davies thrives as the main man, the Dragons could prosper and be the surprise package of next season.

Related posts

Leave a Comment