The latest rugby evening headlines on Friday, May 6.
Support for Phil Bennett
The rugby community has rallyed to send its best wishes to Wales rugby legend Phil Bennett, who is unwell and being cared for by his family. The Scarlets released a statement on Friday to say: “Phil is battling like the true Scarlet he’s always been and our thoughts and prayers are with him. We would ask everyone to respect the privacy of the family at this difficult time.”
Many well wishes have been sent the Lions great’s way, with the Scarlets Supporters Club saying: “Our prayers are with Phil and his family at this tough time.” The Ospreys expressed similar sentiments, saying: “Our thoughts and best wishes are with Phil and his family from him at this difficult time” and both the Ospreys and Cardiff Supporters Club said: “Thinking of Phil and his family from him at this difficult time .”
Read more: WRU aren’t actually allowed to just ax a team as rules made clear
Moffett backs call for region to be axed and says players not good enough
Former WRU chief David Moffett, the man at the helm when Wales’ rugby regions were formed, claims the union has neglected the professional game for a number of years and believes there’s only enough money to now sustain three regions.
He believes the region to face the axe, should there have to be one, must be the Dragons as they are owned by the WRU, and doesn’t believe Wales’ player pool would suffer.
“I don’t think they would be cutting the number of professional players, what they would be doing is cutting all the journeymen in Welsh rugby,” Moffett told The Times. “You are cutting out a lot of so-called professional players who will never come close to making the national side.
“Many of these players haven’t got a right to call themselves professional rugby players. Wales have really been scraping the barrel in that regard. If you had three teams, you’d be increasing the quality of rugby, and the quality of players. I think it’s the best option.”
I added: “This isn’t how it was meant to turn out when we went regional in 2003.”
Wales star feared for Test career
Owen Watkin says he feared for his Test career after being left out of two Wales squads in a row. The powerful center had a strong game for the Ospreys against the Scarlets last time out and figured in every Six Nations match this term, the only Wales center to do so.
But rewind to the autumn and Watkin found himself omitted from a Wales panel for the second time in four months. It was a set-back, he says, which left him deeply concerned.
“When you get the call you think you are potentially done,” said Watkin. “To be left out of the summer Tests and then in the autumn was disappointing. But it shows if you work hard, perform and deliver what they want, you will get your opportunity again.”
The 31-cap Bryncethin product identifies Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, along with George North, Willis Halaholo and Nick Tompkins as making up the Wales midfield competition. But, ahead of selection for the summer tour to South Africa, all those players presumably have healthy respect for Watkin, who reclaimed his Wales squad place on the strength of hard work.
“Getting him back in the 12 shirt has helped,” said Ospreys head coach Toby Booth. “He feels very comfortable there and having an impact from a carrying point of view has given him a lot of confidence.”
Watkin plays for the Ospreys against the Dragons in Swansea on Sunday afternoon.
George North gets first start in more than a year
George North will make his first start in more than a year at the center for the Ospreys in this weekend’s Welsh derby.
The Ospreys host the Dragons in the United Rugby Championship on Sunday and North has been given the nod after coming on as a replacement during the 54-36 win over the Scarlets after recovering from a major knee injury.
Michael Collins switches to full-back and prop Nicky Smith starts. Read the full Ospreys v Dragons team news here.