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'You have to ask if the Wales development system needs a serious overhaul'

By Paul Smith
Press Association

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A number of prominent figures in Welsh rugby have asked some searching questions following their regions’ dismal start to the European Champions Cup season.

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These are led by widely-respected administrator and former Saracens and Harlequins boss Mark Evans who took to Twitter to register his concern.

“Awful weekend for all the Welsh teams,” he wrote.

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“Given that, quite rightly, most of the players are home grown (like Scotland and Ireland) you have to ask if the development system (including schools, club, pro and union) needs a serious upgrade/overhaul. Unlike other factors that is controllable.”

He then qualified this by adding:

“Welsh teams have not challenged in European Cup for a while. Not pulling up too many trees in URC either. Some key factors in Welsh rugby set up aren’t within their own control. Best to concentrate on those that are.”

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While Cardiff won some admiring comments for their contribution to an exciting Friday night contest in which Harlequins claimed a 36-33 win, with only one game remaining in this season’s abridged pool stage format, Dai Young’s club are still looking for their first win.

As a result of their much-publicised, ill-fated trip to South Africa, Cardiff have faced an extremely disrupted spell during which they went a significant period without any match action. They also opened their campaign against Toulouse with a hastily-compiled scratch line-up.

However, Ospreys – who this weekend lost 10-25 against visitors Racing 92 – are also winless following three rounds of European action. Their West Wales rivals Scarlets are in a similar situation after they were hammered 45-10 by high-flying Top 14 outfit Bordeaux Begles.

Dragons are also still searching for their opening European success following a 25-10 Challenge Cup setback in Italy against Benetton, while their league form is also a matter of major concern since they have registered only one United Rugby Championship win to date.

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Former Wales and British & Irish Lions scrum half Mike Phillips also prompted plenty of debate with his Tweet (above).

This led a number of his followers to question whether Wales needs four regional sides, or if one in the east and one in the west would be a more successful option.

In addition, plenty pointed to the funding gap which exists between the French and Irish sides and Wales.

By contrast, former Wales international Steven Jones was quick to note the stream of home-grown players which the regions are producing for the national side.

“All this negativity regarding regional rugby is killing me,” he said.

“We have four regions full of young Welsh talent which can only be good for the future of our game. Would you rather watch regional teams full of overseas players, because that’s what everyone is pushing for.”

However, his message found only qualified support from another ex-Wales star Lee Jarvis who wrote:

“I would rather watch a team that can win games regardless of where they are from.

Some great youngsters coming through but they need experience around them to perform IMO. So much focus on 60 cap rule and team Wales it only benefits one party.”

 

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