I know Dan very well and have done for some time now. He’s a lovely bloke, fiercely competitive and most importantly of all, a top, top player. That’s why a club like Northampton are in for him.
He’d be a huge asset to Saints, but from a Wales perspective we can’t allow him to leave without a fight. If I was in charge at the WRU, Dan would be one of my priorities to keep in the regional game. To see him leave would be a huge blow because as Wales fly-half, Dan is a key man.
Before I carry on, I can understand why Dan may want to look elsewhere. He’s 27 now and has been at the Ospreys for a long time. As one of the most ambitious men I’ve played with, maybe Dan looks at Northampton and sees them as a good team to join and win trophies.
That’s what every player wants and sadly, Dan hasn’t quite been able to do that with the Ospreys in the last few seasons. I’m sure that silverware is the main driving ambition and of course the financial package will be an incentive, too. As a player, you’d be lying if you said that’s something you don’t consider when you look at potential moves elsewhere.
All that means I can understand why Dan might sniff out a couple of other options. That said, it’s hard for me to quantify how big a loss he’d be should he end up leaving the Ospreys.
I remember Dan’s first training session at Llandarcy because I was there. We’d heard a lot about this young fly-half coming through the academy, but when he turned up we expected him to maybe be a little bit quiet. Not a bit of it. Dan came in as a teenager and immediately had no trouble in bossing guys like myself, Tommy Bowe and Gavin Henson about. That told us this guy was here to stay.
We quickly nicknamed him Rhinoskin because nothing seemed to get to him and you can still see that in the way he plays today. Let me make it clear, I think the Ospreys would be lost without Dan’s leadership, drive and influence around the place. It’s almost impossible to put a price on that.
I know the Ospreys have Sam Davies and they’ve signed James Hook as well, but what sort of message would it send if the first-choice Wales fly-half moved to England? It wouldn’t look great, especially from the Union’s perspective I would suggest.
Dan has done a brilliant job in nurturing Sam through from a young age and that tells you everything about what the bloke brings as a player but also as a person. He’s more than just the average 10 and you only had to look at the Lions tour to see what a top-class operator Dan is.
I know he didn’t make the Test side, but I thought he was one of the most consistent players on the trip. In every match he played in he delivered and he was a massive part of the midweek side. For me he was unlucky not to face the All Blacks. I know Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell are fantastic players, but I think Dan pushed them as hard as he possibly could. He did himself proud out there.
That only emphasised to me that Dan is and will be Wales’ fly-half in the next few years and up to the 2019 World Cup in Japan. I’m sure there will be some people reading this and saying that if Dan is winning trophies with Northampton, that will make him a better player.
I appreciate that point, but ultimately the game in Wales is about more than that these days. We want our best players running out for the regions if at all possible. Our supporters and young children look up to guys like Dan. They’re the heroes we need to promote the game and if the regions are to be as strong as possible, they have to keep hold of their best players.
Dan is clearly one of the best players at the Ospreys and that’s why I’d urge the WRU to sit down with him to try and see if they can come to some sort of agreement on a new deal.
Without that happening, it looks likely another Wales star will move over the Severn Bridge. Dan won’t be the first to do that if it happens and he probably won’t be the last. But what the Union can’t do is give up. They’ve got to do something to try and stem the tide and that’s why I’d break the bank to try and keep Dan here. Martyn Phillips, Gareth Davies and Co, now it’s over to you.