MOV­ING ON UP? HOW 10 RE­GIONAL SWITCHES TURNED OUT

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT ON SUNDAY - MARK OR­DERS Rugby Cor­re­spon­dent mark.or­ders@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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