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Welsh Regions Must Hope Young Kids Wise Up Quickly In World Cup Year

The Guinness Pro 14 has been re-shuffled with the two conferences re-drawn – theoretically to keep them evenly-balanced. Robin Davey believes it makes life tough for the Ospreys and Dragons next season, but that all the Welsh regions will need to hope their youngsters come of age.

The World Cup will obviously dominate the start of the next rugby season, but all the top leagues will carry on regardless – meaning for the Welsh regions it will be very much a test of their strength in depth.

And that is where they have often come up short as they compete against the Irish provinces with bigger budgets and the Scots who have just two regions to fund compared with Wales’ four.

With the new conference groupings for the Guinness Pro 14 competition just announced, it will be very much a case of trying to make the best of another difficult situation.

To start with, the Welsh quartet will be reliant on whatever depth they can muster and particularly on their young players coming through the Academy system. Added to that will be the sprinkling of a few new recruits.

The Ospreys and Dragons will find it particularly difficult given that the new-look conferences pit them against the formidable pair of Leinster and Glasgow.

They were the two finalists in last season’s play-off-s with the crack Irish side emerging triumphant yet again – but only just as they edged to an 18-15 victory.

So, it’s going to be a mighty task for the Ospreys and Dragons to make much of an impression in Conference A given the real strength in depth Leinster and Glasgow possess and the quality of rugby they play.

The Ospreys are still waiting on a decision from their inspirational leader Alun Wyn Jones, who is out of contract after the World Cup and has yet to commit his future to the region.

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Bristol Bears have expressed an interest in signing him, but Wales and Lions coach Warren Gatland has said only this week he will be shocked if his captain ends up anywhere other than the Liberty Stadium.

Gatland stressed how well Jones is looked after in Wales, being able to limit his rugby to such an extent that he could well make the Lions tour to South Africa in 2021.

The Ospreys have made some key signings in Wales outside-half Gareth Anscombe and No.8 Gareth Evans.

Anscombe, who has switched from Cardiff Blues, was the major starter at 10 for Wales in the Six Nations rather than Dan Biggar and he was undoubtedly the key match-winner in the Grand Slam showdown triumph against Ireland.

The fact that he will be the first choice 10 at the Ospreys – whereas that wasn’t the case at the Arms Park owing to the presence of promising Jarrod Evans – is sure to galvanise both the player and the Swansea region.

Back row forward Evans has signed from Gloucester and will fill a hole left by Dan Baker who has been bedevilled by injuries.

The likelihood is they will need more than that, but the same can be said of the other regions.

The jury will be out on the Scarlets who have lost most of their coaching team in Wayne Pivac, Stephen Jones, and, in all probability, Byron Hayward.  All are stepping down to join up with the national team.

The Scarlets have gone Down Under to New Zealand again for Pivac’s replacement, with Brad Mooar flying in as head honcho. Much will depend on how soon he beds in.

Much the same can be said for the Dragons and their appointment of Dean Ryan as director of rugby. The imposing Englishman has been given an all-encompassing role – director of rugby, head coach and a seat on the board as well.

He will be charged with revitalising the ailing Dragons while off the field chairman David Buttress is aiming to take the region back into private ownership and develop the top end of the Rodney Parade ground.

Their one major signing is outside-half Sam Davies, who has joined from the Ospreys with the aim of providing the Dragons with some much needed direction.

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One of their first targets will be to end their appalling away record in the Pro 14, where they have gone over four years and 44 matches without winning.

Cardiff Blues have made a couple of significant signings among the backs, where international wings Josh Adams and Hallam Amos will provide an already exciting back division with even more potential.

The re-signing of big No.8 Nick Williams was also an important development though they could still do with a bit more power in the lock department.

But it does look a bit threadbare for all the regions, although some real encouragement was provided this week by the Wales Under 20 team and their magnificent victory over the Baby All Blacks.

Some of the players will surely break through into the regions and the Pro 14 during the forthcoming season.

They will be needed.

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