The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has confirmed that the Ospreys duo, Scarlets vice-captain Scott Williams, and Cardiff Blues’ outside-half/full-back Gareth Anscombe have all signed national dual contracts.
After a lot of consideration, it’s apparent that it’s in the best interests of all parties.
Ospreys and Wales star Dan Biggar on signing a dual contract
The announcement comes just 24 hours after Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb was unveiled as the eighth player to join up to national team head coach Warren Gatland’s new contracts aimed to retain and nurture the best talent in Welsh rugby.
“I’m thrilled to have signed an NDC and honoured to have been considered for one in the first place,” Biggar said.
“After a lot of consideration, it’s apparent that it’s in the best interests of all parties.
“I am as committed as I’ve ever been to pulling on an Ospreys shirt, being an Osprey is all I’ve ever known.
“My focus, once Saturday’s huge game for Wales is out of the way, is making as big a contribution to the Ospreys’ season as I can.
“Ensuring that we’re in the end of season playoff games remains a huge motivation for me – it’s where a club of the Ospreys standing should be.
“I’m looking forward to the next 18 months with the Ospreys and Wales immensely; a period which should be a special time for Welsh rugby as a whole.”
At 29, Jones becomes the oldest player signed up to Gatland’s scheme, but he remains one of Welsh rugby’s consistent performers for club, country and the British and Irish Lions.
The Ospreys lock admits that the contract will allow him the best chance to add to his 89 international caps beyond this year’s RBS 6 Nations, which ends on Saturday.
“For me the national dual contract allows me to continue playing with ambition for the Ospreys and put myself in the best position to be selected for Wales,” said Jones.
“Hopefully, now a good number of players have committed to this process, there will be a clear pathway of progression for youth and regional players to perform on the international stage.”
New Zealand-born Anscombe, who qualifies for Wales through his mother, is the second uncapped player to sign up to a dual contract after highly-rated Newport Gwent Dragons centre Tyler Morgan.
The 23-year-old joined Cardiff Blues from the Chiefs at the end of Auckland’s ITM Cup campaign in November, and has taken the outside-half position at the Arms Park from Rhys Patchell.
After a solid start to life in Welsh rugby, Anscombe was called up by Gatland to his Six Nations squad to shadow Biggar and Rhys Priestland and to get acquainted with his new countrymen.
“I am extremely grateful to have been added to the list of national dual contract players in Wales,” Anscombe said.
“This makes me more determined than ever to become the best I possibly can be as a player, so that I can compete for my Blues place, and strive for international honours with Wales.”
Scarlets centre Scott Williams, who came off the bench to score Wales’ only try in their 23-16 win over Ireland in Cardiff last Saturday, also admits it is an honour to be offered a contract that see plenty of input from the Welsh coaching staff as well as his region.
“It is a great honour to be offered a national dual contract and I am delighted to be amongst the first group of players to take up this opportunity.
“I am very grateful to all the assistance I have at the Scarlets and within the Wales coaching structure, and I am now looking forward to continuing to work as hard as I can within Welsh rugby.”
All 12 players will have their game time managed by the Wales coaches, in conjunction with their regional counterparts, with their regional output set to be limited to around 16 regular season matches.
Gatland, who pushed for the introduction of the dual contracts to come to fruition amid more English and French clubs looking to poach top Welsh talent on big-money deals, believes he has secured a talented group of players with reputations for excellence.
“Alun Wyn, Dan, Scott and Gareth represent a cross section of experience, but each one of them is a player of proven talent,” Gatland said.
“Within the group of 12 we have signed a mixture of emerging talent and players who have secured reputations for excellence through their appearances for their regions, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
“The strength of the group is of great benefit to professional rugby in Wales and we are looking forward to working closely with the regions and these players in the years ahead.”
Ospreys: Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Rhys Webb
Scarlets: Jake Ball, Rhodri Jones, Samson Lee, Scott Williams
Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe, Sam Warburton
Newport Gwent Dragons: Hallam Amos, Tyler Morgan
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