MOVING ON UP? HOW 10 REGIONAL SWITCHES TURNED OUT
SCOTT Williams’ switch from the Scarlets to the Ospreys is notable in that it sees a player move from one region to another in his absolute prime.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the most high-profile switches in the history of regional rugby.
We check out 10 of the biggest moves between Welsh regions, excluding those who were scattered around after the demise of the Celtic Warriors, and examine how they worked out...
10) GAVIN THOMAS: OSPREYS TO SCARLETS, SCARLETS TO DRAGONS
AFTER Thomas left for the Scarlets, an insider at the Ospreys claimed that the flanker had been “rowing in a different direction” from others at the Llandarcy-based region.
Whether that was the case or not, he quickly got his act together at the Scarlets, proving an outstanding breakdown operator alongside Simon Easterby.
A subsequent move to the Dragons saw him make 61 appearances for the Gwent outfit, proving a mainstay and earning plaudits from coach Darren Edwards when the back rower had to finish because of knee trouble.
“He was a fantastic player and servant for the Dragons – a man of few words in the changing room who demonstrated to his teammates through his actions,” said Edwards. VERDICT: Thomas proved a big hit at both the Scarlets and the Dragons.
9) ALED BREW: OSPREYS TO DRAGONS
MANY at the Ospreys had identified potential in Brew, but their stellar cast of wings during his time at the region meant he struggled for game-time and so was loaned out to the Dragons, where he scored 13 tries in 28 appearances.
He couldn’t repeat the trick when he returned to the Ospreys, but he was born to play for the Dragons and when he went back there as a fully-fledged signing he immediately rediscovered his mojo and 16 tries in 2010-11 helped win him a place in Wales’ World Cup squad.
He left for Biarritz in 2012, while saying: “The Dragons made me the player I am today.” VERDICT: Brew suited the Dragons perfectly and played his best rugby for them.
8) ANDY POWELL: SCARLETS TO CARDIFF BLUES
POWELL had been around the houses by the time the Scarlets snapped him up in 2004, with the then youngster having already had dalliances with Newport, Llandovery, Beziers and Leicester.
He had gone back to work in his family’s business, disillusioned with rugby, before former South Africa coach Ian McIntosh persuaded him to give the sport another go.
He clicked at Cardiff Blues, taking his chance when Xavier Rush was injured and and playing so well he made the Wales set-up and toured with the Lions in 2009.
The incident that saw him arrested for driving a golf buggy on the M4 while less than sober preceded his departure from the Blues in 2010, with their then coach Dai Young suggesting Powell had “lost his way”. VERDICT: A terrific ball-carrier with quick feet, Powell played his best rugby while with the Blues, even if he did eventually drop down a gear.
7) RHYS THOMAS: DRAGONS TO SCARLETS
WHEN Thomas moved from east to west in 2009, The Mirror newspaper reported: “He will become one of the highest-paid players in the Magners League.”
The paper suggested he had signed a three-year deal worth £500,000 over the next three years.
There were some who criticised his scrummaging, but around the field he was into everything and he always gave his all for the Scarlets.
His career ended prematurely after he fell ill in training. He subsequently needed heart surgery. VERDICT: Thomas had been doing well enough before the abrupt end to his career.
6) DAN EVANS: DRAGONS TO OSPREYS
EVANS had gone from the Scarlets to the Dragons and played well for the Newport-based region before the decision to release him in 2014, with the then 34-year-old Lee Byrne signed as his replacement.
Wales may have ignored Evans since he won two caps in 2009, but for the Ospreys he has been excellent, adding creativity from the back as well as a high-class kicking game.
His displays have been all the more notable as he has been playing behind a pack that has often blown hot and cold. VERDICT: Evans has been one of the best signings in regional rugby history.
5) RHYS PATCHELL: CARDIFF BLUES TO SCARLETS
EYEBROWS were raised when Patchell opted to switch from the Blues to the Scarlets last year. He was a local boy
and even admitted himself it would be a wrench to leave the Arms Park.
The problem was the Blues couldn’t guarantee him a regular starting spot at fly-half with Gareth Anscombe on their books.
The Scarlets were able to do that and Patchell hasn’t let them down. VERDICT: Patchell has justified Wayne Pivac’s faith in him as a No. 10.
4) IAN GOUGH: DRAGONS TO OSPREYS
GOUGH had already won 35 caps when he made the decision to join the Ospreys in 2007.
He had previously played more than 90 games for the Dragons.
The move west prompted the best rugby of his career, with his performances for Wales during the 2008 Six Nations particularly notable. So hard did he work against Italy, he lost three-quarters of a stone in weight.
He grafted relentlessly for the Ospreys, too, making 119 appearances before his departure in 2013. VERDICT: The big-hitting Gough gave the Ospreys six years of top-quality graft and effort.
3) LEE BYRNE: SCARLETS TO OSPREYS
IT is hard to think of a player who made more of a success of a move between regions than Lee Byrne.
When he joined he Ospreys in 2006 he was still settling at Test level.
Three years later he was the Lions Test full-back and spoken about as the best full-back in the world.
Maybe he would have made those improvements at the Scarlets, but his impact at the Ospreys was still undeniable.
He helped pep their attacking game by running razor-sharp angles and his booming left boot secured the region swathes of territory. His final season in Swansea was blighted by injury, but he had been an outstanding player for the Ospreys. VERDICT: Simply a great acquisition for the Ospreys.
2) ADAM JONES: OSPREYS TO CARDIFF BLUES
THIS one caused a fair few ripples in the regional pool when it happened in the summer of 2014.
Jones had been the cornerstone of successive Ospreys pack since coming into the set-up as a youngster. He gave both them and Wales rock-solid scrums.
But it went sour towards the end as he fell out of contract at an unfortunate time, with the regions starved of cash amid the political and financial turmoil that had engulfed Welsh rugby at the time.
He had one season at the Arms Park before leaving for Harlequins, where he has proven a role model for young props, including Kyle Sinckler. VERDICT: Jones’s best years were with the Ospreys. The move east came too late in his career.
1) MIKE PHILLIPS: SCARLETS TO CARDIFF BLUES, CARDIFF BLUES TO OSPREYS
PERHAPS the most high-profile move of the lot when he switched from Cardiff Blues to the Ospreys in 2007.
The scrum-half had previously decamped from the Scarlets to the Arms Park in 2005 and built his reputation as a game-changing player blessed with a ferocious will to win, impressive fitness and an ability to defend. He frequently excelled for the Blues.
But it was his flight to the Ospreys that really caused a stir, with the Liberty region reportedly paying £180,000 a year for his services, a lot in 2007.
But Phillips helped them win the Magners League title in 2010 and contributed strongly until a final season that saw him fall out of favour and eventually head for Bayonne. VERDICT: The popular Phillips was a big success for Cardiff Blues and initially shone for the Ospreys before a difficult final season at the Liberty.
Scott Williams will be swapping his Scarlets shirt for an Ospreys jersey next season