Project Reset is slowly becoming the biggest cock-up that Welsh rugby has ever experienced, and that is no mean feat. In fact, it’s almost impressive.
It’s gone from a bright new world of working together for the betterment of regional rugby, to failing to work out a new funding model, to trying to merge regions and create a new venture in North Wales, to leaving things as they are but too late to stop players leaving, and now it appears to be actively preventing regions from getting stronger.
At least, that’s what the Welsh Rugby Union aspect of the Professional Rugby Board, setup by Project Reset, is currently doing as Cardiff Blues attempt to salvage some sort of competitive squad for next season.
Last week we learned how Wales’ Capital Region were very close to signing Will Boyde after the back rower was not offered a new contract by current employers Scarlets, much to the disappointment of many of their supporters.
In fact, some sources close to the player suggest he has actually put pen-to-paper on that contract, which makes the following news all the more awkward for the Cardiff Blues when it comes to resolving the situation.
The reports are that the WRU representatives on the PRB, namely Steve Phillips and Julie Paterson, have stated that the signing of Boyde can only go ahead if Nick Williams is subsequently not offered a new contract.
Now Cardiff Blues were keen to sign the big number eight to another one-year contract, and the player himself was happy to extend his career by another season having laid down firm routes in the Vale of Glamorgan.
This would have given us solid depth at the number eight position, with Williams probably still the go-to man in big European and Welsh derby games, but Boyde able to offer some respite as well as cover right across the back row.
That is the key to building a squad capable of at least attempting to compete in the Pro14 and in our case the European Challenge Cup – building strength in depth.
As has been the case for a few years now, if everyone were fit and healthy the starting XV we would be able to field next season would be capable of challenging most teams in Europe, and that’s what we saw when we had a remarkably injury free run in the second half of last season.
Unfortunately injuries are a part and parcel of modern professional rugby though, and 99 times out of 100 the team with the best squad performs the best throughout the season, not those who can point to a strong 15/23, but with nothing underneath.
If the WRU via the PRB deny us the opportunity to take both Boyde and Big Nick forward into next season’s squad they are essentially saying “we don’t want you to be competitive in 2019/20”.
It also begs the question of who is actually running Cardiff Blues Ltd, the board of directors and the chief executive? Or the WRU/PRB?
If the hands of the former are tied by the latter then we may as well call it a day as an independent company and hand over control to the WRU, before watching the region be driven into the ground as they have somehow managed to do at the Dragons when the only direction of travel was seemingly up.
Project Reset has been many things so far and few, if any, have been positive, but this seems to be the most regressive step yet and the fear has to be that it will only get worse as time drags on and money dries up.
That is as long as Alun Jones lets it, anyway. Time to fight our corner, Mr. Chairman!