Belfast Telegraph

Ospreys and Scarlets set to merge in Welsh rugby overhaul

 

Staying on: Ulsterman Allen Clarke will be kept as a coach
Staying on: Ulsterman Allen Clarke will be kept as a coach

By Steffan Thomas

Welsh rugby is set for its most radical overhaul since 2003 with the country's two most successful professional sides - Ospreys and Scarlets - poised to merge for as soon as the start of next season.

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While Warren Gatland's national side are just two victories away from a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2012 having won their last 12 games, off the field political chaos has ensued.

Crunch talks over 'Project Reset' - the system by which Welsh rugby will be run moving forward - have been held between the Welsh Rugby Union and its four professional sides.

WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips has long been keen to establish a new outfit in north Wales, which has led to the current outfits - Dragons, Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Scarlets - fearing for their future. It is understood Ospreys and Scarlets will combine to form a new team moving forward.

Discussions over what the new combined region will be called and where they will play are ongoing, but barring any hitches an announcement is imminent.

Discussions between the WRU and its four regions over the last fortnight saw every option considered, but the Scarlets have stepped in to ensure the Ospreys have some sort of future.

The new franchise will have a higher budget than both the Ospreys and Scarlets respectively and the hope is the combined region will stand a chance of competing to win the Heineken Champions Cup.

Current contracts for players on both sides will be honoured. Incoming Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar and Ospreys boss, Ulsterman Allen Clarke, will both have future coaching roles.

It is also understood that initially the plans are to play Guinness PRO14 fixtures out of Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli with European games at Swansea's Liberty Stadium.

Benefactors of both the Ospreys and Scarlets will pump money into this new entity and are confident it can become self-sustainable and successful over the next few seasons.

The Dragons and Blues will continue in their current guises.

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