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Williams column: Dan Lydiate is crucial to Ospreys’ revival

Ospreys flanker Dan Lydiate

DAN Lydiate could prove to be the signing of next season for the Ospreys.

In these troubled times – where no one is really sure of anything due to the outbreak and spread of coronavirus – one thing I can say for definite is Dan’s new contract is great news for my old team.

As things stand we don’t know when rugby will return in Wales, but it will do at some stage and when it does, it will be a chance for the Ospreys to start again.

To have a player like Dan committed to the region for the long term is massive. Hopefully he can help take the Ospreys back to where they belong – at the top of Welsh rugby.

I don’t think I played alongside anyone in my career who grafts harder than Dan. He does all the tough work you don’t see. He has real mongrel and never takes too many headlines, but what he does on the field is absolutely vital to his team being successful.

In many ways Dan completely revolutionised the blindside flanker position with his chop tackling technique when he burst on to the international scene with Wales.

That was in the couple of years before the 2011 World Cup and I was lucky enough to still be on the scene then. Dan suited Warren Gatland’s and Shaun Edwards’ defensive approach down to the ground as he would tackle people low and give players like Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric the chance to compete over the ball for turnovers.

He has drifted out of the Wales set-up in the last two years, but I have no doubt he is still good enough to wear the red shirt at international level.

Of course the Ospreys will be secretly hoping that doesn’t happen as to have a player like Dan available week in, week out throughout the season is a huge boost.

He is someone incoming head coach Toby Booth will be relying on heavily moving forward. Dan’s experience is vital as there are a lot of young players at the Ospreys. They are talented, but still finding their way in the game.

The Ospreys have won only two games in the season to date, but I am excited about where they can go moving forwards.

Justin signing a new deal as captain was brilliant. I’m sure he could have gone to most clubs in the world and named his price so for him to stay in Swansea is a great bit of business. Then there are Wales stars Alun Wyn Jones, George North, Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Webb who will all be wearing the black shirt next season.

That is the nucleus of a very good side, but of course we know the Test commitments of the guys I’ve mentioned above mean they won’t always be around in the PRO14.

It’s a reality all sides have to deal with across the competition and that is why Lydiate will continue to play a huge role in the next couple of years.

He will be an invaluable sounding board for someone like Olly Cracknell and the rest of the back rowers at the Ospreys who are coming through the ranks.

It would have been devastating for the Ospreys if Dan had moved on. In terms of his Wales career it might be that it is over given the back row position has changed now somewhat.

When Dan was at his best and was the player of the Six Nations in 2012 the game was slightly different to what it is today.

Wales flanker Dan Lydiate and captain Sam Warburton
Gladiator: Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton take a lap of Twickenham after beating England in the 2012 Six Nations. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

These days it is more about ball carrying and distribution in the back row, but that is not to take away from what Lydiate brings.

He hits 30 rucks a game, tackles himself into the ground, and never stops working.

He is one of Welsh rugby’s best and most loyal servants and it’s great he is staying around for the foreseeable future. The Ospreys need him now more than ever.

SHANE WILLIAMS

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