By Shane Williams
It all seems to have fallen apart at Ospreys and I must admit I’m seriously worried. There have been some very poor results on the field and the news Rhys Webb is following his half-back partner Dan Biggar out of the Liberty Stadium exit door at the end of this season hasn’t exactly cheered me up either. So, what’s going on?
Let’s start with Rhys. I don’t think you can begrudge him a move to Toulon. Like Dan, he’s been a fantastic servant to the Ospreys and has come through the region’s system. Let’s not forget, too, that he’s done it the hard way.
Rhys has been Wales’ first-choice scrum-half for a while now, but he wasn’t always an automatic pick at the Ospreys. He had to bide his time and learn from guys like Justin Marshall, Mike Phillips and Kahn Fotuali’i. In the long run, that’s made him the player he is today. I’ve always liked Rhys as a person, too. He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet and I think he’s looked at the offer from Toulon and found it too difficult to turn down.
He’s 29 later this year and has two children with his partner. This is a move which will set his family up for life and Rhys knows all too well that a serious injury could yet be around the corner having had so much bad luck in his career so far.
We all know how much money Toulon have to spend. Rhys is likely to double or treble his wages there. Wales and Ospreys fans will be sad to see him go, rightly so, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad move for Rhys or Warren Gatland.
I know that might be controversial and I’ve read with interest people’s views on ‘Gatland’s Law’ – it’s exploded again on the back of Rhys’ transfer! Some have called for it to be abandoned but I can’t see that happening. Doing so would be an admittance of failure by the Welsh Rugby Union and as long as Warren can keep picking his best players, I don’t think he’ll be too bothered by what anyone else is saying or thinking.
When Dan’s move to Northampton was announced, I’m sure Rhys will have spoken to Warren on his international ambitions and I would be amazed if he wasn’t involved with Wales next season.
The truth is Welsh rugby just cannot compete with the wages on offer in France and England. That’s been the case for a while now, but if you look at things from the Ospreys’ perspective, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Dan and Rhys’ exits are salt in the wound because at the moment, the team is really struggling.
It makes it hard to see how there’s going to be any form of improvement next season when two of their best players won’t be around.
Of course no team can rely on a couple of individuals but that’s what has me concerned with the Ospreys right now. When I was there we had the side everyone called the ‘Galacticos’. Those days are gone and the Ospreys now have a mixture of experience and youth. But they are not performing this season and both Dan and Rhys have seen this as the right time to seek pastures new.
On paper Ospreys should be a good side, but they’re simply not delivering and it’s left Steve Tandy under pressure. I know Steve very well. He’s been in this position before and come through it, but I think the next two to three weeks will show just what sort of coach he is.
I hope he comes through it, but we’ll have to wait and see if results don’t improve, people will start questioning his position and calling for him to be replaced. I’m not saying that’s my view, that’s simply the realities of working in management in professional sport and Steve will know that.
Everyone is talking about next season already on the back of Dan and Rhys’ announcements, but Ospreys are in trouble now even with those two on board. If it’s not sorted out quickly, there’s a danger neither Steve or some of his players might make it to the start of the next campaign.