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Williams column: Ross Moriarty should stay in Wales with Dragons

Ross Moriarty

ROSS Moriarty has quickly become one of Wales’ most important players. That might seem a strange thing to say given he was on the bench for a couple of games at the World Cup, but Ross is a vital figure.

The unfortunate injury struggles of first-choice No.8 Taulupe Faletau mean Wales have been robbed of one of their biggest talents for nigh on two years.

You can’t give Ross much more credit than to say he has filled Taulupe’s shoes and more in that time. Now the question is where Ross will play his regional rugby next season?

He is out of contract at the Dragons at the end of 2019-20 and it’s no surprise to me a host of English and French clubs are looking at him. Why wouldn’t they when he has so much to offer?

The key thing for me is that Ross has to stay in Wales and my view is that his best move would be to remain at the Dragons and the Rodney Parade side should be doing everything they possibly can to keep hold of him for the long term.

Ross should be pivotal to Dean Ryan’s revival plan but I’m sure there will be a lot of things for Ross to consider. Every player wants to win trophies. Every player wants to be playing in the best team possible. Every player wants to play international rugby.

Ross will be weighing all those things up, but the reality of the matter is if he decides to move somewhere like Exeter Chiefs, another Premiership club, or to the TOP 14 in France, then his Wales career is over. I might be wrong, but I can’t see that happening.

Welsh rugby has worked hard to get Ross back into our system since his move from Gloucester and in that time he has gone on to become a Test regular. He now has 41 caps at the age of 25 which is good going.

To continue to build on those numbers he has to stay the Welsh side of the Severn Bridge. I’m sure all of the three other regions will be looking at Ross, but for me Rodney Parade is the best place for him. If he stays with the Dragons he will be a leading figure for both club and country.

Ross has a no-nonsense approach to his rugby. He carries hard, makes mincemeat of players in the tackle, and in a game which has changed immeasurably in the last 20 years, he is a bit of a throwback to the old days. In many ways he reminds me of his father Paul.

Some people might be thinking it would be best if Ross moves on, especially given his high wages and the strength in back row depth at Rodney Parade.

I do see that argument. If Ross did move on, it would free Ryan up to sign new players in other positions and you’d imagine he’d look at prop and centre if that were to happen.

The Dragons do have a host of back row talent available to them in addition to Ross with Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths and Taine Basham all coming through. Those three are all fine players, and Aaron was picked ahead of Ross at the World Cup in Japan, but they are not yet the finished product.

For the Dragons to be winning games regularly and competing in the PRO14, they need players like Ross leading the charge – someone who is a proven Test performer.

The development of guys like Aaron, Ollie and Taine will also only be improved by playing with Ross. Let’s not forget he’s a British & Irish Lion too.

Under the Welsh Rugby Union’s pay banding system that means he can demand a certain salary. Like any player he will be looking around now to suss out his options.

The other regions will all be expressing an interest, but will they want or be able to afford him? The Blues might need a No.8 with Nick Williams in the twilight of his career, but their priority should be front five forwards and in the back row they have Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins to come back – and Josh is a pretty good option at No.8. The Scarlets are pretty well blessed at the back of the scrum, too, and I think Uzair Cassiem is having a great season. Josh Macleod is also very promising.

Ross’ Swansea roots might mean he’d be interested in joining the Ospreys and who knows, if Justin Tipuric does move on there might be interest there. Still, Ross wouldn’t be a like for like replacement as he’s not an openside with his best positions either on the blindside flank or at No.8.

If Ross stays put he can continue what has been a decent start to Dragons life under Ryan, remain a Wales regular, and be in contention for the next Lions tour to South Africa in 2021.

SHANE WILLIAMS

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