With all eyes in the rugby world fixed on Japan, little attention has been given to the the start of another PRO14 season this weekend.
The much-maligned cross border competition has provided 117 players to the World Cup, more than any other domestic competition, so the first couple of months of PRO14 action may have a low-key feel to it.
But one player who won’t want a slow start to his season is new Dragons signing Sam Davies, who will spearhead Dean Ryan’s revolution having joined from the Ospreys.
The former Junior World Player of the Year was once heralded as the next big thing in Welsh rugby but a loss of form along with an Ospreys game plan which wasn’t catered to his strengths saw him fall out of Wales reckoning.
The fly-half is confident his move to the Dragons can reinvigorate his career under new boss Ryan.
Davies told The Rugby Paper: “I met Dean before I signed and what he wants to do with the Dragons excited me and added up to what I wanted to do with the club as well. We’re building a good relationship and I’m enjoying it. Enjoying my rugby is the key factor.
“I haven’t enjoyed the last couple of seasons. To be back liking training is a key factor. Dropping out of the Wales squad made me stop enjoying my rugby because things weren’t going my way.
“ I also didn’t like having a lack of freedom in my game which is something that Dean is going to allow me and the group to have.
“There’s times where you may not agree with the game plan but you just go through with it but now I feel that I’ve got a relationship with the coach where we can discuss these things.
“It’s not a case of the coach saying go out there and do this, it’s him asking what’s the best game plan for this particular game. Let’s go and execute it and do it as a collective.
“That’s what Dean has brought. He’s not telling us what to do, he’s bringing out the answers in us which I think has been very good and has brought players out of their shells as opposed to putting players into their shells.”
Since the inception of the old Celtic League in 2001 the Irish provinces have been the dominant force, with Leinster winning a record six titles.
The challenge for the Welsh regions will again be getting the better of the Irish. While the Ospreys and the Scarlets have won this competition in the past, the Welsh record against Irish opposition makes for grim reading. In total the Welsh regions have won only 40.6 per cent of their matches against the Irish provinces in comparison to 51.4 per cent against Glasgow and Edinburgh.
For the Welsh regions to consistently compete at the top end of the PRO14 this is a trend which needs to be reversed. Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke believes his side are as good as defending champions Leinster, Munster and Ulster when at full strength.
He said: “We’ve been in the process of rebuilding the Ospreys but now we want a period of sustained success. Part of that will be about managing and rotating our squad successfully. If we can get the majority of our top end players on the field then we can take on anybody in Europe. Our challenge is developing squad depth. The Ospreys are in a strong position.”
Cardiff Blues will be looking to improve on last season where they narrowly missed out on a play-off place. Ellis Jenkins, who will return to action in December, is confident they have the personnel to do that.
“Making the play-offs is always the target,” said the Wales openside. “If we can improve week on week then the result will take care of itself.”
Scarlets, who endured a disappointing 2018/19 campaign, look well placed to be Welsh rugby’s strongest challengers this season. And new head coach Brad Mooar has not shied away from the pressure to deliver success.
“Our long term goal is to win silverware,” he said. “Our aspirations isn’t just about participating but dominating in the near future.”
Squad: Daniel Babos, Luke Baldwin, Taine Basham, James Benjamin, Ryan Bevington, Jacob Botica, Leon Brown, Christian Coleman, Jack Cosgrove, Nic Cudd, Joseph Davies, Sam Davies, Elliot Dee, Jack Dixon, Rio Dyer, Connor Edwards, Lewis Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother, Benjamin Fry, Lennon Greggains, Oliver Griffiths, Tom Griffiths, Brok Harris, Ashton Hewitt, Richard Hibbard, Cory Hill, Tom Hoppe, Dafydd Howells, Aaron Jarvis, Harrison Keddie, Tavis Knoyle, Rhys Lawrence, Josh Lewis, James McCarthy, Tyler Morgan, Ross Moriarty, Brandon Nansen, Aneurin Owen, Josh Reynolds, Arwel Robson, Jared Rosser, Matthew Screech, James Sheekey, Ellis Shipp, Will Talbot-Davies, Huw Taylor, Aaron Wainwright, Adam Warren, Max Williams, Jordan Williams, Rhodri Williams
Coach: Dean Ryan
Captain: Cory Hill
Squad: Cory Allen, Gareth Anscombe, Lloyd Ashley, Matthew Aubrey, Dan Baker, Adam Beard, Tom Botha, Olly Cracknell, Sam Cross, Aled Davies, Bradley Davies, Hanno Dirksen, Dan Evans, Gareth Evans, Ma’afu Fia, Gheorge Gajion, Keelan Giles, Will Griffiths, James Hooker, Alun Wyn Jones, Rhodri Jones, Will Jones, James Kings, Lesley Klim, Dewi Lake, Dan Lydiate, Harri Morgan, Luke Morgan, Reuben Morgan-Williams, Morgan Morris, George North, Scott Otten, Sam Parry, Ifan Phillips, Luke Price, Nicky Smith, Gareth Thomas, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Justin Tipuric, Guido Volpi, Owen Watkin, Kieran Williams, Scott Williams, Tom Williams
Coach: Allen Clarke
Captain: Justin Tipuric
Squad: Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Scott Andrews, Dimitri Arhip, Keiron Assiratti, Liam Belcher, James Botham, Will Boyde, Macauley Cook, Kristian Dacey, Seb Davies, Corey Domachowski, James Down, Jarrod Evans, Dan Fish, Rhys Gill, Willis Halohalo, Jason Harries, Ellis Jenkins, Lewis Jones, Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Dillon Lewis, Ethan Lewis, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Harri Millard, Matthew Morgan, Ben Murphy, Kirby Myhill, Josh Navidi, Olly Robinson, Garyn Smith, Aled Summerhill, Rory Thornton, Ben Thomas, Brad Thyer, Jason Tovey, Josh Turnbull, Lloyd Williams, Nick Williams, Rhun Williams, Tomos Williams
Coach: John Mulvihill
Captain: Ellis Jenkins
Squad: Paul Asquith, Corey Baldwin, Jake Ball, Uzair Cassiem, Ryan Conbeer, Steve Cummins, Gareth Davies, James Davies, Jonathan Davies, Taylor Davies, Dan Davis, Ryan Elias, Dylan Evans, Jonathan Evans, Rob Evans, Shaun Evans, Steffan Evans, Rhys Fawcett, Kieron Fonotia, Simon Gardiner, Leigh Halfpenny, Kieran Hardy, Josh Helps, Dafydd Hughes, Steffan Hughes, Dan Jones, Marc Jones, Wyn Jones, Ed Kennedy, Werner Kruger, Samson Lee, Tomi Lewis, Josh Macleod, Johnny McNicholl, Ioan Nicholas, Angus O’Brien, Ken Owens, Hadleigh Parkes, Rhys Patchell, Tom Phillips, Phil Price, Tom Prydie, Lewis Rawlins, Javan Sebastian, Aaron Shingler, Steffan Thomas, Blade Thomson, Morgan Williams, Tom Rogers
Coach: Brad Mooar
Captain: Ken Owens
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