Toby Booth says 'we want a plan' and admits uncertainty not helping anyone

-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth says the panic around a possible merger with the Scarlets five years ago is still felt at the region, as the subject of going down to three professional teams still lingers in Welsh rugby.

The proposed merger between the two west Wales regions happened in 2019, prior to Booth's arrival in Swansea.

But even now, the fear that Welsh rugby could lose one of the existing four sides remains.

Last Sunday, Welsh Rugby Union executive director of rugby Nigel Walker admitted that moving from four to three is on the table when the WRU's new strategy is revealed in June.

And when asked whether talk of cutting a region was helpful to those working at the four sides, Booth admitted that the uncertainty it creates is unsettling - before adding he didn't expect things to change overnight.

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"Obviously I wasn't here when the merger stuff was talked about with the Scarlets and the last time this conversation came around, but they still talk about the panic it caused," Booth told WalesOnline. "I think that we as people can have the best intent of being positive and finding a way, but nothing will stop feeling you less like that than uncertainty.

"So I think we have to be very careful about every comment we make. There's a fine line between talking honestly - and we want honesty and transparency - and (having) a plan.

"We want a plan. You want some commitment to what that is going to look like.

"The only thing I can say about that is you want as many players playing at a certain level to see them. The more you do that, and the more teams you've got, the better.

"What I will say is, if we want to get momentum and energy into the game in Wales, we need to be competitive. You've got to have a completive Wales. How Wales and the regions win is the first question we should ask. Then, things can work from that. You need to bring the 'can do' attitude to it.

"From a legality point of view, there's lots of signed contracts around that so even if it was going to change, it's not going to change overnight. But we all need to get together and find a way, for sure."

Booth was speaking ahead of Judgement Day, where his side head into the final day with a slim hope of reaching the play-offs.

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Elsewhere, Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan questioned whether much had changed in the leadership of Welsh rugby's hierarchy as he expressed optimism about those in charge at Rodney Parade.

"It's difficult," said Flanagan. "I'll have my own opinion on certain things that I'm probably not allowed to say. I've probably said a lot over the last 12 months about leadership. Has much changed? I don't know. We've got to look after ourselves as Gwent rugby.

"We've got three fantastic owners who want to invest in and grow the region. Not necessarily financially, but that's through time.

"They give us a lot of time and they help us, fundamentally help each individual person in the region grow, whether that's as a player or person. That's critical to me.

"I want to work in a person where people put people first and that's what I see in our owners. They have an expectation to win.

"They're all successful businessmen. That expectation will now fall on us as a team to grow and be better."