Posts Tagged ‘Scarlets’

Shane Williams has called for the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to step in and help stop the player drain of Welsh stars to France and England.

Welsh rugby has seen a raft of players leave after being offered big pay days the regions cannot compete with.
“I do think there has to be some involvement with the Union,” said Wales’ record try scorer, who will retire at the end of the season. “At the end of the day, we want to keep our players in Wales.”

The Ospreys wing, who was named IRB Player of the Year in 2008 and retired from international rugby in December 2011, has seen a host of former Wales team-mates sign for clubs outside Wales.

Blues prop Gethin Jenkins, Ospreys hooker Huw Bennett and Dragons lock Luke Charteris will follow James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne to France this summer, while Stephen Jones has left the Scarlets to sign for London Wasps.

“There needs to be some kind of commitment from the Welsh regions and the WRU,” added Williams.

“There needs to be a happy medium because as far as supporters are concerned, we just want to see Wales successful as a national side and the regions doing well in Europe and the RaboDirect Pro 12.

“It is a very difficult place at the moment, not just in Welsh rugby, but in Wales economically.”

The four regions – Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Scarlets and the Ospreys – have announced a salary cap of £3.5m which will begin at the start of the 2012-13 season, a move which has been welcomed by the WRU.

The four regions and the WRU have also commissioned a financial review by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to address the ongoing financial problems and the dwindling attendances watching the regions.

“The Welsh regions appear to obviously have a problem financially, having said that, the problem is how much finance there is in the French clubs,” said Williams.

“That makes it very difficult for players to turn down these offers. “Even the English clubs are coming in with the big offers which makes it very difficult for the regions to keep hold of these guys. “It’s a shame but I don’t blame the players. You have to look after yourself, your family and look after your future as well. “It’s tough for the regions and they are certainly finding it very difficult to compete and because of that they seem to be struggling on the field.”

But Williams also offered a strong defence of nearly a decade of regional rugby in Wales despite claims it has failed to capture the public’s imagination.

“It has worked,” added Williams. “People are asking that question because the Welsh regions haven’t been successful in the Heineken Cup, but the Heineken Cup is a tough, tough competition.

“Since the regions were formed, the national side has certainly benefited, we have played some great rugby, won some championships and Grand Slams.

“So something has to be working. Yes, it’s been 10 years and there haven’t been any Heineken Cup wins but I have no doubt that will happen in the future.”


Cardiff Blues are poised to appoint Worcester forwards coach Phil Davies as director of rugby, BBC Sport Wales understands.
Last month, Davies asked the the Avivia Premiership club for permission to speak to the Welsh region.
The Blues lost former boss Dai Young to London Wasps ahead of the 2011-12 season and placed Justin Burnell and Gareth Baber in charge.
The Blues have refused to confirm or deny the development.

Davies, a former Scarlets coach went into discussions about the role with two years left on his contract at Sixways Stadium.
The former Wales and Llanelli back-five forward helped guide the Warriors’ back to English rugby’s top flight for the 2011-12 season.
Davies, who won 46 Test caps, led the Scarlets to their last Heineken Cup semi-final in 2007 before he was sacked the following season.
Before that, he led the Leeds Tykes from National League Three to Heineken Cup rugby and lifted the Powergen Cup at Twickenham in 2005.

He went on to coach Wales Under-20 and Welsh Premiership side Cardiff RFC before taking up his role at Worcester.
In January 2012, the Blues confirmed forwards coach Burnell and backs coach Baber would remain in charge until the end of the season.

The Blues go into the final game of their Pro12 season at the Scarlets on Saturday having seen their play-off challenge fail.
They reached the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, where they were thumped 34-3 by defending champions Leinster.

In April the Blues announced a search for a new director of rugby and witnin days Worcester chairman Cecil Duckworth revealed Davies’ request for permission to bid for the role.

Twelve players, including Wales prop Gethin Jenkins and Wales scrum-half Richie Rees, are leaving at the end of the season, and the region fear they will also lose new Wales wing sensation Alex Cuthbert.

The region were also criticised over their handling of Gavin Henson, who was sacked after a alcohol-fuelled disturbance on a flight as the squad returned from Glasgow.

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It has been a memorable month for Ken Owens, but the all-action hooker isn’t ready for the celebrations to stop just yet.

It is not a case of the 25-year-old hooker revelling in an extended Grand Slam party, far from it.

Owens now has his sights on silverware on the regional stage as the season enters make or break territory.

The Scarlets take on regional rivals the Blues tomorrow needing victory to maintain their ambitions of finishing in the all-important top-four play-off spots in the RaboDirect Pro12.

There is also a mouthwatering quarter-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup in Brive to look forward to.

So has it been difficult to come down from the highs of Saturday and those remarkable post-match scenes within the Millennium Stadium?

“It has all been a little bit surreal,” smiled Owens.

“It was a great experience and a great day.

“It is impossible to explain really, coming in on the bus through the crowds of people, walking into the Hilton after the game, it was something that will always stay with me. To see Cardiff like that and people around the country celebrating is outstanding.

“But going back to your region is all part of the day-to-day work of a professional rugby player. We have got a big challenge with the Scarlets and this result against the Blues this weekend will go a long way to determine the top four places for the play-offs.”

After returning from the World Cup in New Zealand with just a brief second-half cameo against Namibia to show for his efforts, Owens has emerged as a genuine contender for the Wales No. 2 jersey during the Six Nations.

With Matthew Rees and Huw Bennett sidelined for the Triple Crown decider at Twickenham, the Scarlet stepped into the breach with a fine all-round display.

He was unfortunate to lose his place to Rees for the Italian date, but made a mark off the replacements’ bench.

And on Saturday, in those nerve-shredding final moments against France, he played his part with some crucial carries and timely tackles.

“It was nice to get a bit of game time and to get a start against England was great,” he added. “It was just great to prove myself against the best players in the northern hemisphere on the international stage.

“You look back to being on a beach at the edge of the Baltic after a tough training session and this is why you put your body through it, these are the rewards for all the work you put in.

“A lot of hard work has gone in since the end of last season’s Six Nations, which was pretty disappointing for us.

“We have got a big challenge in the summer and then against the big southern hemisphere sides again in the autumn.”

But before he can even think about locking horns with the Tri Nations heavyweights, Owens will be up against the players who he has been sharing a hotel with over the last eight weeks.

The Wales squad have been described as a tight-knit ”band of brothers” throughout this Six Nations campaign. That brotherly love will turn into sibling rivalry at the Cardiff City Stadium as both sides go in pursuit of crucial Pro12 points.

“It is hard to explain,” added Owens. “We have become good friends over the last year or so, but there is also a mutual respect there. You don’t give each other an inch on the field and you have got to show that respect by getting stuck into each other.

“This is a massive game for our play-off ambitions. It is all pretty congested at the top, so if we slip up we are going to be struggling, we probably need to win our next five to get into the semis. We have had a couple of good results in Cardiff in the last couple of years, but it is not an easy place to go. They have some good players and boys back from the Welsh squad.

“But we have got a lot of focus on the league. The boys are disappointed with how the match went at Franklin’s Gardens in the LV= Cup and they are eager to bounce back.

“As a squad it would be hugely frustrating not to make an improvement on last year’s performances and what we have done last year. We have got to take that next step and get a semi-final in the league. A lot of the Scarlets boys who have been involved in the Six Nations have played really well and made big contributions.

“I also think Sean (Lamont) and Ben (Morgan) are going to want to end their Scarlets careers on a massive high, which is great. Both have been outstanding for us and I am sure they will want to repay the Scarlets with some silverware.”

Of course, Owens knows the same competition he faces on the international stage is there at regional level in the form of British Lion and Scarlets skipper Matthew Rees.

“There is nothing much either of us can do apart from turning up, and whoever has got the shirt has got to perform,” he added. “It is not just us two either, Emyr (Phillips) has been outstanding, while Kirby (Myhill) has gone well for the under-20s.

“Hopefully I can keep getting opportunities to start and keep proving my worth.

“As far as Wales is concerned, having won a Grand Slam, you want to be involved all the time. You have to keep trying to make an impact whether it is starting or from the bench.

“It is a big target of mine to cement my place in this squad.”

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Ryan Jones redefined the concept of a utility forward in Wales’s Grand Slam campaign, and the Ospreys man will switch positions again tonight.

After starting at blindside flanker against Ireland and at lock in the win over Scotland, Jones came on at No. 8 and openside in his remaining Six Nations appearances.

He will be shifted once more tonight, as he starts at second row for the Ospreys against Leinster at the RDS.

Jones has impressed for both the Ospreys and Wales at lock this season, and he admits his last game — at openside flanker against France — was testing.

“That was different. I was way out of my comfort zone,” said Jones.

“It’s not something I’m used to. I went out and did my best but I don’t think Warbs (Sam Warburton) or Tips (Justin Tipuric) have much to worry about.”

Jones is typically modest and, although he was playing out of position, the 31-year-old produced an excellent display last Saturday.

Carrying powerfully and tackling incessantly, his performance was characteristic of an outstanding personal Six Nations campaign.

After the tumult of the Grand Slam-clinching victory over France, a return to regional rugby may have seemed a little underwhelming to some.

But, for Jones, a clash against RaboDirect Pro12 title rivals Leinster is the ideal way of returning to Ospreys duty.

“It’s a great fixture and it’s nice to have a match of that magnitude — emotionally and physically it takes care of itself,” he said.

“We have huge fixtures now. It’s been great coming back in with the guys.

“There’s been a lot of change with guys leaving and a new philosophy coming in so it was great to chat to the guys.”

Jones’s best game of this year’s Grand Slam was arguably his first against Ireland and, although Wales emerged victorious last month, he does not think the result will have much bearing on tonight’s encounter.

“Whether Ireland have been successful or not has never been an issue for their provincial teams,” Jones added.

“They’re always competitive, they know how to win and that doesn’t change because Ireland have had a bit of a dip in form.

“Leinster are still a team with great players. If we want to be contenders we have to go to places like that and win.”

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Ospreys (14) 27
Tries: Bowe 2. Cons: Biggar. Pens: Biggar 3. DG: Biggar 2.
Scarlets (13) 19
Tries: J Davies. Cons: S Jones. Pens: S Jones 4.

The Ospreys are still in contention for a play-off place, with a much needed win over local rivals the Scarlets. The ospreys dominated the game during a rainy evening in South Wales, but couldn’t quite turn that dominance into a substantial points lead.
Jonathan Davies scored a fine turnover try for the Scarlets, but Bowe also went over in the first half before his opportunist second sealed the result.

The late breakaway try was doubly damaging to the Scarlets, ripping away a precious losing bonus point that leaves them still lowest placed of the four Welsh regions.