5 ways Welsh rugby will be different this season

adam jones

As the new season looms ever closer, here are five reasons that rugby in Wales will be a completely new game this season:

1. Bomb

After arriving on the international scene way back in 2003, Adam Jones has become an icon of Welsh rugby, his long, trademark locks and huge frame instantly recognisable on the field. Jones (or Bomb, if you want to use his nickname) is one of the most successful Welsh players in the professional era, with four Six Nations Titles, four PRO12 titles and a Lions Series win to his name.

Following the well drawn out civil war between the regions and the WRU this season, Jones found himself without a club, leading to him begin pre-season training on his own and back at his old club Neath. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Jones had become a Cardiff Blues player; the club having snapped him up from local rivals Ospreys on a one year deal, following 11 years with the Swansea side. Pairing up with a Lions duo of Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins in the front row, the Blues’ new signing will have a point to prove when facing his former club this season.

2. Sponsorship

Alongside the new sponsorship deal that sees the PRO12 branded as the ‘Guinness PRO12’, BT Sport have reached an agreement with all four regions in a multi-million pound sponsorship deal. The deal sees the home of the Blues being rebranded as the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, with the broadcasters also becoming main shirt sponsors for Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets. The four Welsh regions now join the two Scottish clubs, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, in sponsorship with BT Sport.

Some fans will criticise the move and its commercial implications, particularly the rebranding of Arms Park, yet this isn’t so alien in rugby; Saracens play their rugby at Allianz Park, and the Australian national side have become Qantas Wallabies, to name but two examples. There are those that will blast the showing of matches on Sky Sports, too – some will still be shown on BBC and S4C – although it’s not such a negative move; it could actually lead to more bums on seats in the stadiums. In a period of financial instability in Welsh rugby, sponsorship deals on a scale such as this are an absolute God-send.

3. Contracts

Wales captain Sam Warburton took a brave step in signing a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union earlier this year, a historic moment and an audacious move against the outgoing flow of players to England and France. As the imminent peace deal between the WRU and the regions draws ever closer, details of other potential players on ‘dual’ contracts (which will be similar to, but not the same as, Warburton’s) have surfaced. The list includes a whole range of Welsh rugby’s biggest names; Ospreys lock Alun Wyn Jones, Dragons talisman Taulupe Faletau, new Scarlets captain Ken Owens, as well as inbound Blues recruit Gareth Anscombe, who has yet to make a senior appearance for Wales.

Whilst there hasn’t been any official confirmation yet, it appears that the WRU will offer central contracts to these players, paying their wages and in turn relieving the regions of some of their financial burdens. The ongoing civil dispute in Wales has almost diluted the importance of these contracts, which would bring Wales in line with other countries with the same system, like that of Ireland and the Southern Hemisphere nations.

4. Coaches

In a supersonic whirlwind that’s spanned only a few months, three of four of the Welsh regions have appointed new head coaches for the forthcoming season. Kingsley Jones takes the reigns at the Dragons, Wayne Pivac replaces Ireland-bound Simon Easterby at the Scarlets, whilst Kiwi Mark Hammett is at the Blues. Hammett is arguably the most high profile of the three, having just left the helm of the Hurricanes in the Super 15. These new appointments will no doubt be of huge importance on and off the pitch, as new personalities, ideologies and tactics will surface.

Scarlets ran the risk of becoming too repetitive and predictable with their attacks and runs towards the end of last season, whilst the Dragons looked overworked and exhausted at times. The Blues may have had a better run-in than their compatriots but it’d be wrong to look past their horrific form earlier on in the season. New faces will be a much-needed breath of fresh air and an exciting revitalization for fans and players alike.

5. Homecomings

Over the last few seasons, it’s become more and more apparent that the Welsh regions are inadequately equipped to compete with the big money offers from over the bridge and across the English Channel. England and France boast a vast range of foreign stars playing for their clubs, so much so that France captain Thierry Dusautoir has publically condemned the influx of foreign players and the consequential impact on home grown talent. This season was no different, as Leigh Halfpenny, Richard Hibbard and Jonathan Davies (amongst others) left South Wales.

Yet things are on the up, as a great deal of players are actually returning to our shores. This season will see the likes of Ian Gough, Andy Powell and Lee Byrne team up at an impressive Dragons side, the latter of whom has been announced as captain for the region. Elsewhere, Craig Mitchell and Tavis Knoyle will represent the Blues this year, whilst the Ospreys have added experience in Cai Griffiths and Martin Roberts. As Irish fly-half Jonny Sexton looks on the brink of returning to Leinster from Racing Metro next year, and with Jamie Roberts hopeful of a return to the Blues in the future, it may well be that we could be seeing a massive change soon, with some of Wales’ biggest names on their way back home.

By Jack Hoare (@jackhoare)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

22 thoughts on “5 ways Welsh rugby will be different this season

  1. With Point 1 above you neglect to point out that Adam Jones was offered 3 different contracts by the Ospreys in 2014. The team that stuck by Jones for a whole decade when he was away on Wales duty and 3 Lions tours.

    The third and final contract faced the sticking point of having a new PA agreement in place before Jone would sign.

    This was apparently Jones’ only publically stated barrier to re-signing with his former region.

    Funny how Adam Jones then signed for the Cardiff Loos BEFORE the newly anticapted PA was in place, yet this was his own oft stated reason for not re-signing with the Ospreys.

    One can only assume that money from changing the name from the Arms Park to ‘The BT Sports …….’ has come in useful for both the Loos and Adam Jones.

    For as the Gospels tell us:-

    ‘And lo the Pharisees gave unto Judas a purse that contained 30 pieces of silver’.

    1. I think this is really harsh on Adam Jones.

      Firstly, yes he was offered 3 contracts – but they clearly were not right for him for whatever reason. If that is money, then fair enough. He is one of the most sought after props in world rugby; I’m quite sure he has earned himself the right to a decent salary.

      I also do not like this – the club has stood by him to 10 years nonsense. What!? Again, one of the most sought after props is world rugby. He has stood by them as much as the other way round surely?

      Also, yes he signed a Cardiff contact without the new agreement being in place. Quite a simply reason for this. Ospreys contact offer was not valid (and therefore he could not sign it) until the agreement was signed, whereas the Cardiff contact offer was valid either way.

      Jones was out of a job. For family reasons, he did not want to leave Wales. He has a family to provide for so he did what was best for them by signing for the only valid contact offer he had that allowed him to stay in Wales.

      1. Jacob, agree with you 100%.

        I dislike this inferiority complex some people seem to have when dealing with employment i.e. you should feel some sort of gratitude/debt to the people you have worked for. If you have a valuable skill then an employer gives you money to access that skill. A contract is put in place to manage this. Without a contract there is no duty on either side – the club could (and do) avoid renewing contracts as needs arise, they do not get abuse for this, but the player does because of some misguided notion that the club were awesome to him by paying him for his skills.

  2. Enoch, the Blues offered Jones an immediate contract. The Os didn’t. He signed up with the team that would pay him now not promise him pay later when they got their deal with the WRU sorted. Can’t believe the grief he is getting. Would love to see the same people abusing him do the same with ther own employment ie turn down solid offers, hang around on no pay or the potential verbal promise of some, while the employer sorts out his income.

    Stuck by him? They signed him as an asset. They didn’t stick by him – they needed him. He’s not a charity case. He owes them nothing just like a postman owes the post office nothing.

  3. Jamie, thanks for this. I might actually have a genuine tingle of excitement about the coming season now. I was feeling terribly jaded with all of the fighting, arguing and also The Blues poor form. For the first time in years I have no tickets for any upcoming Wales matches. Only renewed my Blues season ticket by default.

    Roll on the new season, especially now with Adam and Hammet at The Blues.

  4. Yes and don’t forget another signing- Gareth Anscombe-so nice to see the Loos developing their own players from within their own huge region which covers the most populous areas of Wales

    1. Yes, like Patchell, Williams, Evans, Navidi, Morgan, etc. Nice of you to notice our good work in that area.

  5. And the 2014 front row of Jenkins, Rees and Jones are all signed from other sides once they became seasoned internationals.

    Just as Cardiff have always done in the professional game from 1995

    Never mind the deal with the regions and WRU at least means you can have ‘Roger’s Gimp’ turn out for you now! (When he not injured that is)

    1. Ah, the classic small minded envy of the non-Cardiffian. I knew we’d get to it in the end. Look, I can’t cure your inbred feelings of total inadequacy but I do advise a good course of therapy as a start. Best of luck with it.

  6. Ahh I do love an old fashioned “inbred ” Welsh dustup gets the juices flowing for the new season .

    Anyone who knows Adam Jones is aware he is a top man for chrissakes he lives in Merthyr and he has done the best he could no doubt for him and his family with a couple of seasons left in him . Good luck to him I say and I look forward to him coming round to play the Ospreys .

  7. brighty

    Gr8 2 c u’ve surfaced again… maturely slinging mud @ & denigrating even yr own this time if they dare demur from yr lofty, unassailable, pedant’s views of all things rugger.

    Keep up the good work cobber. This site needs u… but do get rid of that eye patch, won’t you?

    PS Btw, a bit ironic that ‘Kiwi Mark Hammett is at the Blues’.

    1. Sorry Don, it was a touch of the Norovirus that drove me to it so obviously that means I can just say it didn’t count and we should all ignore it.

  8. Brighty -believe me there is no-one in Welsh rugby (or British rugby. …..no make that World Rugby) who envies Cardiff.

    The team that demanded that only ‘their’ name be the used for ‘their’ region.

    The team whose squad has always punched below its weight for at least 30 years as the Loos and b 4 that Cardiff RFC the self-proclaimed ‘most famous rugby club in the World’

    How many years have the Cardiff Loos been in existence? 10+

    What Celtic League titles have they ever won? 0

    As Don P says all you seem to be able to do is throw insults at people you do not agree with but you offer nothing by way of counter argument. With that in mind, don’t fret because……….

    ‘Semper UWIC est’

    Here is the English translation as I suspect your Latin may be a little rusty.

    ‘There’s always UWIC’

    PS Keep buying Uncle Peter’s pies and help your beloved No1 Cardiff fan all the more.

    PPS Does your ‘inbred’ reference include the 4 Valley Communities that are supposed to be part of your region?

    Those places north of Taffs Wells where NO-ONE supports Cardiff and NO-ONE wears Loos jersey in public?

  9. Ho hi, touched a nerve and rattled the woodwork here I see.

    Calling myself inbred, as I’m from one of those valleys, would be a bit odd. Especially given the number of jersey wearing Blues fans who share the valleys train down to the Arms Park with me on match day. They wouldn’t appreciate it.

    Ah UWIC, happy days.

    Oh, the lack of self awareness from you and Don would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.

  10. Brighty,

    Still waiting for an answer

    What have the Loos won in their 10 years as a region?

    Answer is….. not very much!!

    1. That was a real question Enid? Ok

      Anglo-Welsh Cup – 2008–09
      European Challenge Cup – 2009–10 (first Welsh team to win a European Trophy)

  11. Brighty
    And hear was I thinking that a groundhog had got yr keyboard (warrior) finger.

    Got to hand it to you though, the touch about the Norovirus was pure class. You actually believe it bothers me? That’s a real killer. Honestly.

    But was I right about ‘yr lofty, unassailable, pedant’s views of all things’ right or what? Re-read yr comments & have a laugh. Even the pots & kettles are rolling in the Aisles.

    Do keep up the superlative commentary. Yr web site needs you!

  12. Ah Brighty-you again resort to abuse and yes , I did know that the Loos had achieved such outstanding mediocrity in all rugby competitions entered since 2003.

    Wow-1 2nd tier cup and 1 Anglo-Welsh cup.

    Week in week out what we have really seen in dismal failure in the League and a none showing in the old HRC.

    Lets look at last season’s achievements

    1: Losing home and away to Zebre-Ha ha ha……..30 points conceded at home to Zebre!!!!

    2: 34 conceded at the Ospreys.

    1st half surrender at Exeter-I watched it and laughed my socks off.

    I actually thought I was watching Mussolini’s hollow legions against the 8th Army in WWII.

    Then throw in the following:-

    3: 40 points conceded v Ulster

    4: 43 points conceded v Toulon

    5: 54 points conceded v Munster

    6: 34 points conceded at home (!) to Leinster

    What a fantastic season from the self-proclaimers.

    Wonder where you”ll end up in the League this year without Gorseinon-born and Penyrheol educated Leigh Halfpenny. (another typical non-Cardiff signing for the Loos)

    What % of the meagre points scored by the Loos were as a result of him?

    With the signings the Dragons have made and the strength of the other 2 regions you will be lucky to avoid coming in as lowest region in Wales and are a dead cert for not making the top tier Euro Cup again next season.

    Brighty Some facts to contradict would be a change or will it be the usual mud slinging and bile?

    1. Enid, it’s pointless discussing ruby with you. You’re just an abusive keyboard warrior who cries foul whenever you get it back. You cry about facts yet call the Blues “self proclaimers” ie more unfounded abuse from someone so sensitive to it and holier than thou about it. You have a view that the welsh are maligned that is so strong it borders on paranoia and racism.

      You claim no showing from the Blues in the HC yet compare them to their peers – fact, the Blues have been the most successful welsh region in both tiers of euro rugby but that won’t matter to you, this is all about some self esteem issues you seem to have.

      You have no grace or ability to enter constructive debate – I reply with 2 simple facts, you whirl round crying about abuse again so you get it this time and no doubt you’ll whine again from the anonymity of your bedroom. Sad.

      I will discuss rugby with the rugby fans thanks. I’ll never respond to you again so we both know not to bother. Goodbye.

  13. Prophet Enoch

    Congrats! Now you’ve upset the ‘Bright’ one! Interesting.He seems the most reasonable geezer on the site with copious, erudite minutiae, but lo & behold if you cross him & yr opinion clashes with his. He used the v same words with me ie. ‘whine’, ‘keyboard warrior’ etc & the same personal vitriol. Admittedly I responded in kind somewhat. And all this after I’d mentioned a somewhat unmerited England win v NZ due to the virus.He sailed in like a broadsode fron L Nelson’s flagship… & he ain’t even English (Brighty i.e. not Nelson)! A wannabe? Anyway thought my pt had some substance as subsequent events proved, not least the the 3 zip tour. My pt was completely missed i.e. that the said E victory proved not to be the ‘pivotal’ one Dallaglio said it was. And that was it. And this ‘paranoia and racism’ stuff is a bit hysterical innit?. Critical mother?

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