CHRIS KIRWAN: Dragons need a tighthead, but Adam Jones is not worth falling out over
IF NEWPORT Gwent Dragons were offered the services of a Wales and Lions prop would they accept? Damn right, but steadying up their struggling scrum with Adam Jones might not be a price worth paying.
The tighthead is out of contract at the end of the season and his future remains uncertain. It is a right mess; Wales’ first choice number 3 is yet to pen a fresh deal with the Ospreys and is mulling over an offer from the Welsh Rugby Union.
The WRU-commissioned PriceWaterhouse Coopers report into the regions’ finances said that the introduction of central contracts is not the answer to the Welsh player drain.
Nonetheless, that is the route that the Union have gone down.
They failed to tempt Leigh Halfpenny, Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland or Alun Wyn Jones but succeeded in outbidding Cardiff Blues for Sam Warburton and are now trying to cut a deal with tighthead Jones.
It’s easy to see why a central contract is an attractive one for the 33-year-old – the big event on his horizon is the 2015 World Cup and he wants to remain fit, see off the challenges of Rhodri Jones and Samson Lee, star in the tournament and then sign off from the Test scene.
If he can be nursed through to another season, adding to his 94 caps in the autumn and Six Nations, then it will be job done.
He wants to be fresh and fit heading into the World Cup and that in a nutshell sums up what would be a problem for the Dragons if – and it’s a big if – they were to be offered Jones.
The arrival of the sizeable frame of Duncan Bell has emphasised the region’s desperate need for a seasoned campaigner to hold up the scrum.
The 39-year-old ex-England prop is a mortgage advisor that pops along to the odd training session yet he has rapidly become the Dragons’ key man.
Forget tackle stats and carry counts; they just need someone that isn’t a penalty machine at the set piece.
And they need a workhorse that is there steadying the ship throughout 2014/15, not watching on from the sidelines for much of it. If – and, once again, that is a massive if – Jones was to head to Rodney Parade then he would need to be joined by another top quality tighthead (and, with respect, new recruit Dave Young is not quite in that bracket).
But the biggest risk associated with any potential Jones arrival at the Dragons would be the possible damage done to the relationship with the Ospreys, who he has been with since their inception.
The four Welsh regions have been brought closer together by the recent European rugby spat and it was through their unified approach that they have earned a better deal.
Had one of them split from the group then the stance would have been weakened and staying tight is the route to earning much-needed collective commercial deals in the future.
It’s also worth remembering that the Ospreys, Blues and Scarlets could have stuck the boot into the underperforming Dragons over the past few years whenever ideas were brought up of a ‘development region’ or a reduction to three.
The quartet currently have an agreement not to play any individuals on a central contract but one presumes that will change next season if they are to avoid a PR disaster involving Warburton.
But they must not squabble over players; the services of Wales internationals must not drive a wedge between them.
If the Ospreys say they’d rather develop Wales Under-20s tighthead Nicky Thomas then fine, the Dragons could use Jones.
If the Ospreys were miffed at the prospect of a man who has played 191 times for them turning out at Rodney Parade then the Dragons would be better off looking elsewhere for a solution.
As much as the they need a top notch tighthead, Jones would not be worth falling out over.
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