Posts Tagged ‘ west wales ’

The Endangered Ospreys.

A little clichéd as titles go, but one not without merit – yes, the demise of the Ospreys over the weekend is the one major talking point to come out of an exciting and dramatic weekend of European Rugby Cup action. There are plenty of positives from a Welsh perspective to take away from the tournament, the Blues return to the knockout stages, the Scarlets punch above their weight to continue in the second tier, while the Dragons produced some of their best displays on the European stage, even though their rewards did not match their endeavour. Yet it is on the Ospreys that attention must fall, after all, given their capitulation in France on Sunday, we won’t be talking about them in Europe for another season anyway, so while the Blues and the Scarlets can look ahead, let us look back on the Ospreys, and ask why?

With the comings and goings in Osprelia over the summer, with Hook, Phillips, Byrne and Mitchell all heading for pastures new, some suggested this would be a testing year for the west Wales outfit…those suggestions smacked of pre-season excuses. Even with the big names gone, the Ospreys could still field a near entire international starting line-up, and for most games, had high calibre internationals sitting on their bench. Yet, and not for the first time, a visit to France brought out only the worse from the team who should be leading the way in Wales. Defeat is one thing, all the Welsh regions have tasted it this year, but the Ospreys did so in a manner that was nothing short of embarrassing.

Talk of change marked the Ospreys pre-season, the Galactico tag was ditched, the fake tan banned in the most bizarre of public announcement (really, the fake tan ban was presented with the same fanfare as if the Ospreys had snatched Dan Carter’s contract), and yet, another European Rugby Cup gone by, and the same disappointments are there to be seen. So what has not changed? Given that the Ospreys seemed so keen to fiddle with the squad, one wonders why on earth they retain such faith in a coaching and managerial line-up that returns so little.

Of course, Scott Johnson is on his way, and will surely be waved off with a cheer, and a kick to the behind by the Ospreys fans who have seen nothing on whatever amount was invested in the Australian journeyman’s expertise. But what of those who remain, of Holley and Humphries? We are told that these are the coaches, the men who have the most direct influence over their team, how much more time are they going to be given to produce the goods? Put simply, the Ospreys seem incapable of holding on to their best products, and the products that they have left are stagnating under a coaching regime that looks tired and out of ideas. The EyeOnWales pages make no secret of their allegiance to the colour of Scarlet, but we all recognise the need for a successful Ospreys team for a successful Wales (2008 Grand Slam anyone). The fresh start at the Ospreys should never have been attempted at a player base, but at a coaching level. Fail to address this problem, and whatever player personal come in for the Ospreys next season, will have little to no effect on the regions ongoing shortcomings at the European level.    

It’s time for a change, and the change must come from the top.

Ben Morgan: Time to Sell.

Nobody in Wales should have anything other than respect for the decision made by Scarlets no8 Ben Morgan, to commit himself to England. As Morgan has stated today, he grew up watching England, and dreamed of playing for them, frankly, Welsh fans should have been more concerned if such a player did throw his lot in with the Welsh set-up, the motivation behind such a move would have been questionable at best. It is of course a disappointment for Welsh fans, no shortage of attention has been given to Morgan as he developed as a player in West Wales, and few in Wales will deny that there were genuine hopes that Morgan would at the very least offer competition for Faletau for the Welsh 8 shirt.

However, as much as Welsh rugby fans should respect the integrity displayed by Morgan’s choice (remember, there is no sign of England selecting him, he is just indicating where his loyalties lie – he might have given up on an international career by turning his back on by Wales, it is a chance he has taken, and that as well should be remembered and respected), there is now an onus on the Scarlets to act.  With this one decision, Morgan has gone from being a promising Wales prospect, to an Englishman blocking a Welsh regional development spot. At a time when salary caps are coming, and more and more non-Welsh qualified players are being worked out of the regional squads (and quite right too), all of a sudden the Scarlets face a choice, and it is one that must be faced by a number of the regions in Wales.

There is a danger that Morgan will remain with the Scarlets now until his contract runs out, and he leaves for an English team, no questions asked, no money exchanged. What the Scarlets should off course do is sell the prospect. English and French clubs will have a blank cheque approach for only so long, and those hard up in Wales should take advantage of it while it lasts. I have often wondered for instance, how the sale of a player like George North would benefit the wider world of Welsh rugby, with the sustaining impact of a single big sale supporting salaries of many more Welsh players. Well, this is an easy one for the Scarlets, Morgan is not Welsh, and is under contract. The club should give serious consideration towards doing what is right for Welsh rugby, and Morgan’s sale would bring in the money that might cover the wages or one, two, three, maybe more Welsh qualified players.

Morgan has done what is right by him, and all should respect him for that, the Scarlets now must do what is right by Welsh rugby, and supporting a player who is now blocking the development of the next Welsh No8 does nothing for that.