Wayne Pivac urges Welsh rugby chiefs to consider axing one region

Wales coach Wayne Pivac urges Welsh rugby chiefs to seriously consider axing one of the regions after questioning whether many of the players are cut out to play for the national team

  • Wales coach Wayne Pivac is under pressure following the Six Nations debacle 
  • Wales finished fifth and lost at home to Italy for the first time in their history 
  • Financial problems and poor performances continue to trouble the Welsh game
  • Proposal put forward to cut the country’s number of professional teams to three 

As he surveyed the wreckage that is Welsh rugby around him and looked back on his team’s disastrous Six Nations, Wayne Pivac cut a reflective figure on Wednesday.

There was, after all, much to discuss.

Among the many talking points raised by his selection of a 33-man squad to take on South Africa this summer, Pivac’s admission that Wales should seriously look into the possibility of cutting the country’s number of professional teams from four to three was one of the most significant.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac is under pressure following the Six Nations debacle

July 2

First Test

South Africa v Wales

Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

KO 4.05 PM, Live on Sky Sports

July 9

Second Test

South Africa v Wales

Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein

KO 4.05 PM, Live on Sky Sports

July 16

Third Test

South Africa v Wales

DHL Stadium, Cape Town

KO 4.05 PM, Live on Sky Sports

Such a proposal has been put forward and is being discussed by Welsh rugby’s Professional Rugby Board as financial problems and poor on-field performances continue to trouble the country’s national game. Doing so is fraught with politics and, in reality, unlikely.

It would also dramatically reduce the talent pool available to Pivac given the Welsh Rugby Union’s 60-cap rule means players who don’t have that number of Test appearances must play for a Welsh side to feature at international level. 

Interestingly, Pivac hinted there are many at the four regions who he feels will never be cut out to make it to the top.

‘If you look at the teams that have been dominant in the club scene and look at their national teams, they are all aligned. I think it is very important we get that alignment,’ Pivac said.

‘It certainly helps the national team. We have probably been in silos for a long, long time. Warren Gatland used to talk to me about that and I don’t think a lot has changed in the last eight years.

Wales finished fifth in the Six Nations and lost at home to Italy for the first time in history

‘The sooner we can get full alignment and everybody working for the common good then that has got to be a positive. I know there are a lot of people who have got their heads down at the moment trying to get the best possible solution for everybody going forward in Welsh rugby.’


So, would Pivac support one Welsh region being put out of business?

‘The way we’ve been going at club level and with some of our results at international level it needs to be looked at seriously,’ the New Zealander said.

‘I think they are doing the right thing by having a look at it. It depends on how you rate the player pool and how many players you think are capable of playing international rugby.

Proposal put forward to cut the country’s number of professional teams from four to three 

‘Are we paying players that aren’t really at that level?’

Pivac’s comments were surprisingly honest and, sadly for Welsh rugby, correct. Far too many average players in the country are being paid over the odds right now.

That much was shown in the Six Nations when Wales finished fifth and lost at home to Italy for the first time in history. ‘A loss to Italy was certainly something that wasn’t in my thought process to be honest without sounding arrogant,’ Pivac said. ‘It was a result nobody is proud of.

‘We didn’t expect that and we have to take it on the chin.’

Pivac has justly taken plenty of flak for his team’s struggles this year. Things won’t get any easier with three Tests to come against the world champion Springboks in July.

Dan Biggar will captain Wales in South Africa despite Alun Wyn Jones being in the squad

Dan Biggar has retained the captaincy ahead of the great Alun Wyn Jones for the tour with Jonathan Davies and Jac Morgan surprising omissions in a party robbed of key figures by injury.

George North and Dan Lydiate are back after long-term knee problems.

Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell has been rewarded for his fine form with the Gallagher Premiership leaders with a first senior call, but Pivac’s selection this year has seemed confused.

He warned impressive Morgan he must improve physically in order to win selection despite the Ospreys back-row topping the turnovers charts in the United Rugby Championship.

‘We’ve got to stick with the plan we’ve put in place through to the World Cup until someone tells us otherwise and at this stage that’s what we’re doing,’ Pivac said resolutely.

Tommy Reffell (with ball) has been on fine form and earned a first call-up for Wales

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Steve Phillips said last month ‘we are all in this together’ when pressed on whether Pivac will definitely take Wales to France in 2023.

That much seems likely, but a hammering in South Africa could yet force Phillips to push the panic button even though his in-tray is already full to bursting.

‘We don’t lose sight of the bigger picture,’ said Pivac, who also revealed he had approached new England call-up Henry Arundell about his interest in the Welsh-qualified London Irish back.

‘The discussions I’ve had with Steve have been very, very positive and they’ve all been about preparing the side through to the World Cup.

‘We spoke to Henry as did Scotland but he made it clear he wanted to play for England. We’ll see how it goes this summer. The door will remain open.’


Forwards (19): Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 16 caps), Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 43 caps), Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 10 caps), Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 27 caps), Dewi Lake (Ospreys – 5 caps), Sam Parry (Ospreys – 5 caps), Leon Brown (Dragons – 22 caps), Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 64 caps), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 38 caps), Adam Beard (Ospreys – 34 caps), Ben Carter (Dragons – 6 caps), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 150 caps), Will Rowlands (Dragons – 18 caps), Taine Basham (Dragons – 10 caps) , Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby – 89 caps), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys – 65 caps), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Rugby – 30 caps), James Ratti (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – uncapped)

Backs (14): Gareth Davies (Scarlets – 67 caps), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 11 caps), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 33 caps), Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys – 31 caps), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints – 100 caps – captain), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets – 21 caps), George North (Ospreys – 102 caps), Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 20 caps), Owen Watkin (Ospreys – 31 caps), Johnny Williams (Scarlets – 5 caps, Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 39 caps), Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 51 caps), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 16 caps), Liam Williams (Scarlets – 78 caps)

Players unavailable for selection due to injury: Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty, Christ Tshiunza, Aaron Wainwright, Uilisi Halaholo, Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl

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