CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Regions look set to slump in manner of the Dragons
9:00am Thursday 28th February 2013 in Sport
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are still searching for their first major scalp of the season; the other three regions could soon join the club.
There appears to be a race to the bottom in Welsh rugby.
Forget about challenging for European honours or being the standard bearers in the RaboDirect Pro12, avoiding mediocrity will soon be the ambition.
Yesterday the Ospreys were bemoaning the fact that they will be unable to strengthen their squad in the summer.
“It’s frustrating, especially when you are judged on what you win and how you go in the major competitions and everybody in that competition has more money than you to strengthen their squad,” said coach Jonathan Humphreys.
“Look at Glasgow, they have gone on a hell of a run purely on the strength of their squad. It is huge.
“Leinster will be the same. Munster next year will have the ability to go and get more players. Everybody is going to get stronger.”
The Ospreys have won the Pro12 four times, more than any other side, yet the chances of the reigning champions continuing to set the pace in years to come appears slim.
Last summer they lost Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe and Paul James and the asset-stripping continues this summer when Kahn Fotuali'i, one of the best scrum-halves in the world, heads for Northampton.
It’s a grim situation and stems from the regions that supply players for Wales not being rewarded sufficiently.
Unfortunately the Dragons have played their part as well, taking their share of the pot while frequently providing the fewest members of the national squad out of the four regions.
The system will be the downfall of the national side with more and more players heading abroad to be flogged by clubs who (rightly) don’t care two hoots about Wales.
And those that stay will not be exposed to the top end of club rugby, they won’t learn their trade alongside the best, they won’t be part of a winning culture.
This season the Scarlets were whitewashed in Europe, Cardiff Blues have suffered an Irish Pro12 ‘Grand Slam’ in the capital while the Ospreys, title winners last year, are scrambling to make the playoffs.
There hasn’t been much to toast at Rodney Parade this season with just nine wins out of 26 games, none of them against top opposition.
At this rate the champagne flutes will soon be just as dusty at the Liberty Stadium, Parc y Scarlets and Cardiff Arms Park.