Toby Booth

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth. Pic: Getty Images.

Welsh Rugby Has Become “A Brutal Minefield” Says Ospreys Boss Toby Booth

By Paul Jones

Toby Booth, the English coach caught up in a very bloody Welsh rugby civil war, says he “would completely understand” if his Ospreys players went on strike.

The top region in Wales last year, and conquerors of the French and English champions in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, the Ospreys have 14 players in the current Welsh Six Nations squad.

A proposed meeting of the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) prior to the third-round clash between Wales and England is due to determine whether or not strike action is on the table.

“I don’t think my opinion is actually relevant in it per say. I support, as you can imagine, the position of the Ospreys because I’m in charge,” said Booth.

“The players are absolutely my focus in terms of getting a performance and I’ll support them the best I can.”

“If they feel they have to make a stand, then they’ll make a stand and I understand that completely.”

Now in his third season in Wales, the former London Irish, Bath and Harlequins coach knew life would be difficult in Wales but is now having to manage his team through one of the worst crises in the history of the game in his adopted country.

Neither he nor the other three regional coaches have been able to put together proper budgets for next season because of an impasse between the governing body and the regions.

Players have been told their wages will be cut again even if the warring factions come together and finally put pen to paper on a proposed six-year funding deal.

The deadline for that is 28 February and a meeting of the Professional Rugby Board (PRB), which manages the game at the top level, scheduled for yesterday (Weds) was postponed at short notice.

“I think there has to be greater joined-up thinking between all stakeholders and all parties. I include the players, coaches and regions in that,” said Booth.

“We keep looking backwards for answers – they’re not behind us, they’re in front of us. The one thing we have to do before we get into the detail is to change the attitude to ‘we have to change now’.

“It’s got to breaking point. At some point, the definition of insanity has to surely mean we’ve got to the point where we realise that what’s gone on before hasn’t worked well enough, and it’s time to change.

“Maybe that’s just my blue sky thinking and my optimism, but there is a lot of cynicism and that makes things very difficult.

“I thought I could get past some of the things I was told about in Welsh rugby politics before I joined the Ospreys, but there are so many unknowns and differing agendas which make it a brutal minefield to get through.”

As for the players, some of whom are finding difficulty in getting mortgages and who are suffering from mental health issues, they simply want a voice at the top table so they can have an input into their destiny.

The highly experienced former Wales second row, 66-times capped Bradley Davies, should have been concentrating on preparing to face Munster with the Ospreys on Friday night, but was instead expressing his thoughts on the current situation yesterday.


“I wouldn’t want to strike,” admitted Davies, “but if that was the only thing that had to be done, then I guess I would have to.

“It’s obviously an option in any job, but none of the boys want that, they don’t want to strike. Boys want Welsh rugby to get better again.

“They want this to stop and for us to move forward and compete with other teams. There are boys playing international and regional rugby who don’t know if they’ve got a job in four months’ time, so it’s difficult.

“How would you feel if you weren’t guaranteed a contract? And if you are it is 100 percent guaranteed you will be paid less than you were before.

” We aren’t asking for more money, we are just asking for a voice in the way things are run – player welfare, how many games you play, head injury stuff, mental health.

“As players we have zero input into all that at the moment. All the boys want is a bit of communication.”

Wales Players Consider Strike After Delays And Wage Cuts As Dai Young Warns: Wearing The Shirt Is No Longer Enough

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