Ospreys and Scarlets could merge in biggest domestic shake-up to Welsh rugby in 16 years

5 Mar

Two of Wales’ biggest rugby union teams could merge under radical proposals being discussed.

Ospreys and Scarlets could be combined in what has been mooted as the biggest domestic shake-up to Welsh rugby since regional teams were established 16 years ago.

The merger is reportedly more likely to happen than not and could take place in time for next season.

Alun Wyn Jones has played 233 times for Ospreys

The proposals are the focal point of talks held by Wales’ Professional Game Board, which is a group comprising of representatives of the Welsh Rugby Union, Scarlets, Ospreys, Dragons and Cardiff Blues.

Establishing a new professional team in the north of the country is also reportedly high on the agenda.

The favoured plan is understood to retain four regional teams but would consist of north Wales, an Ospreys-Scarlets merger, Blues and Dragons.

Ospreys chairman Mike James has quit over the proposals and has said: “Project Reset has become Project Inept”.

Leigh Halfpenny currently plays for Scarlets

The Scarlets currently play at Parc-y-Scarlets in Llanelli, while the Ospreys use Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium for their home games.

Any merger would need to establish a home ground, in addition to issues such as the new team’s name and kit.

Around half of Wales’ match-day 23 for the Scotland clash is likely to feature Ospreys and Scarlets players.

And if a merger goes ahead, then players like Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Davies, George North, Ken Owens and Leigh Halfpenny will be part of the same regional squad.

The WRU has not commented on Tuesday’s planned discussions.

Senior Wales players did meet with the governing body last week, though, to discuss a number of issues on the future of regional rugby.

Speaking last week, Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said: “It’s uncertain times, which is disappointing.

“There is a lot of frustration, not only for the best players in Wales, but for their mates in the regions.

“There is an uncertainty about Project Reset, and they would like to know where they are going to be playing next year or in two years’ time.”

So-called Project Reset is being played out against a back-drop of Wales chasing this season’s Six Nations title and a possible Grand Slam.

They face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, followed by Ireland in Cardiff seven days later. Victories in both games would secure a first Six Nations clean sweep since 2012.

Wales winger George North to join Ospreys from Northampton Saints in the summer

25 Apr
Wales winger George North to join Ospreys from Northampton Saints in the summer
North in action for Wales during the Six Nations

Wales international George North has agreed to join Ospreys from Northampton Saints in the summer.

After signing a National Dual Contract with the WRU in November, the winger has finally chosen which club he will represent when he returns home.

On Tuesday, the Welsh giants announced they would be appointing Allen Clarke as head coach, and have now followed that up by signing the 73 times-capped star.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Ospreys and starting a new chapter in my career when I return to Wales,” said North.

“I believe the Ospreys have an exciting future with the structure and the recruitment they have put in place and I’m really looking forward to linking up with Allen (Clarke) and the squad in the summer.

“It was a really positive decision for me to sign a National Dual Contract with the support and structure it provides.

“I have worked alongside the WRU to finalise my choice of region and I would like to thank everyone involved. I’m really looking forward to becoming an Osprey.”

Ospreys have moved to sign the 26-year-old, with half-backs Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar leaving the club before next season to join Toulon and Northampton, respectively.

The club’s rugby general manager Dan Griffiths said: “We are delighted to be able to add George to our squad for next season.

“A truly world-class player, he is someone that everybody at the region is excited about seeing in an Ospreys jersey – supporters, players and coaches alike.

“George has taken his time to ensure that his decision was the right one, and it is fantastic news that he sees our environment as the best place to be going forward.”

And WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips added: “George returning home to Wales is a major positive for Welsh rugby and for the Ospreys. I know he is really looking forward to next season and making a positive impact on Welsh rugby.”