As the WRU has spent 15 years (and longer) trying to drive private finance out of the game in Wales, it seems to make more and more sense to go to a 3+1 model. Buttress is playing at being Chairman of the Dragons (in this context) as he’s spent next to nothing of his own money (£100,000 on a share that delivers a 3% per annum return) and he’s promising all sorts of income from a development on a piece of land that the rugby team doesn’t own.
If there was a 3+1, it should work by loaning out the younger players from the other 3 to the 1 (combined with the best, young, graduates from the Academy of the 1).
Look at the Dragons and the players there who would boost the squads of the other 3, then consider “loaning” a younger squad member back in return. For example, Wainwright would boost any of the other three so could go to Cardiff in return for Lewis-Hughes and Botham. Landman / Hill would boost the second row to play alongside Davies. Griffiths would boost the Os etc.
Hatchet job time, simply because nobody in their right mind would now spend money on Welsh pro teams playing in the PrO’14.
So the idea of a “Development Team” is on the table because of the way the WRU has driven the game in Wales – away from money and towards Blazer control. We are where we are.
The idea on the table is that younger players are seconded to Gwent for a season or two, in order for them to get game time. They can still play alongside never-again-to-be-capped players like Bevington, Hibbard and Williams, but will actually get game time at the highest level possible.
There were 16 or so examples of such players on the pitch at CAP yesterday.
So Ethan Lewis gets a full season at PrO’14 level alongside Hibbard, whilst Dee strengthens Cardiff. Lewis-Hughes gets weekly proper rugby whilst Wainwright has a chance of playing in a team that can win more than two games in a row.
IF (and what a big IF that is) the PRGB can set this up properly then significant savings can be made. For a start, the £500k chucked at RGC can be binned as “Gwent” can play the odd game in Colwyn Bay. Secondly, the need for expanded squads because of “A” team commitments is then diminished because there may no longer be a need for those teams (as a regular team) so squad sizes can be a little smaller at the “3” whilst the “1” picks up players like Davies-King, Murphy, Conbeer and Price.
And, of course, this is before you consider the cost of the coaching structure for the “development / transition” phase, as that must be costing the game in Wales a seven figure sum each season.
With the circumstances on the table, that kind of set up could work.