Ospreys' explosive response to Scarlets merger plan
UPDATE: The Ospreys labelled Wales’s Professional Rugby Board (PRB) chaotic and reckless in denying they are on the verge of merging with the Scarlets in a major restructuring of Welsh rugby.
However, the PRB insisted it will attempt to forge ahead with a plan it described as “what is best for professional rugby in Wales.”
Scores of professional players’ immediate futures are in limbo, with the PRB trying to thrash out a solution in meetings held on Tuesday.
However, after Mike James resigned as the Liberty Stadium side’s chairman at the start of Tuesday’s PRB meeting, citing the Welsh Rugby Union’s “catastrophic mismanagement” of efforts to overhaul the game, the club insisted they are not about to merge.
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STATEMENT FROM OSPREYS RUGBYhttps://t.co/qx9QbDtDSk
— Ospreys (@ospreys) March 5, 2019
“The instability created by PRB’s chaotic approach to its own imposed restructuring criteria has been the height of recklessness at its worst and incompetent management at its best – an approach which has resulted in wild conjecture, hostility and uncertainty in the regional game,” Ospreys said in a hard-hitting statement.
“We stand fully behind the comments of Ospreys outgoing chairman Mike James and add the Ospreys’ voice to his in calling for fundamental re-examination of a truly disastrous process. We also stand behind the comments and concerns of the WRPA (The Welsh Rugby Players Association) concerning the woeful lack of consultation to date.
“The Ospreys are NOT on the verge of merging with the Scarlets.”
Wales’ PRB comprises representatives from the WRU and existing regions the Scarlets, Ospreys, Dragons and Cardiff Blues.
The chairman of the other three regions, however, put their names to a statement rejecting the claims made by the Ospreys.
“The PRB would like to make clear that the statements issued today by the Ospreys do not reconcile with the minuted meetings, actions and documented agreements that have taken place to date,” read the statement.
“The PRB support the principle of the proposed merger, not least because it is in keeping with the overall strategic direction agreed in planning sessions attended and agreed by the entire PRB in January.”
A new professional team in north Wales could be formed as part of so-called “Project Reset” in Welsh rugby’s biggest domestic shake-up since the inception of regional sides 16 years ago.
“Today’s events will not deflect the PRB from this course. It is vital that the rigour and accountability that has characterised discussions to date remains in place in the coming days and weeks,” added the PRB.
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips addressed Welsh squad members on Monday, but it is all being played out against a backdrop of Wales chasing a first Six Nations title for six years.
Victory in their final two games against Scotland and Ireland would also secure a Grand Slam.
“There is no doubt the players have been distracted,” Wales head coach Warren Gatland said on Tuesday.
“We are trying to limit that distraction, which is why we had the meeting yesterday to try and inform the players about what was going on so we could put it behind us and really focus on an important game for us.
“There is no doubt it has been a challenge for the players in the last couple of days.”
WRPA chairman Ken Owens was one of those selected for the Scotland game by Gatland on Tuesday and expressed his concern.
“I am deeply concerned about the situation that the players across the four regions face,” said the Scarlets hooker.
“I recognise that this is the most challenging situation that I or arguably any player has faced during our rugby careers.”