Despite the assertion from Cardiff Blues this week that Dwayne Peel has “signed a three-year contract” and “is due to arrive at the Arms Park in the summer”, it’s highly likely that the former Wales scrum-half won’t be coaching us next season.
My understanding is that senior management at the Arms Park are resigned to losing Peel before he’s even arrived in Cardiff, but that as he is contractually tied to the club for the next three years they will work to ensure they are more than satisfactorily compensated financially for the inconvenience.
Let it not be brushed over though that this is the dictionary definition of tapping up. Dwayne Peel is not a victim of anything, and the Scarlets aren’t the good guys offering him a lifeline. It’s pretty poor from both of those parties at a time when the Welsh professional game should be concentrating on banding together to reshape the Welsh Rugby Union so that it is effective in modern professional rugby.
Now of course circumstances have changed since Peel signed his contract back before Christmas, as John Mulvihill has departed as the head coach, and at this point Cardiff Blues do have to take some learning points as I understand a miscommunication made it seem as if Dai Young was being appointed as a long-term successor to the Australian.
However, Young has only been brought in on a deal until the end of the season and will have to apply for the head coach/director of rugby role beyond that, just as Peel himself will have the chance to do.
If he didn’t get that role, and the likelihood is that he would only miss out to Young should the former Wasps DoR want the job, then he would take up the role he signed a contract for in the first place as Senior Assistant Coach. With respect to John Mulvihill, he would be working under a better head coach/director of rugby in the form of Dai Young.
So with no real reason for Peel to have irretrievably fallen out with Cardiff it seems the actions of Scarlets, directly approaching their former scrum-half about a head coach role as Glenn Delaney moves to a director of rugby position, is what has caused the issue.
Of course professional sport is dog-eat-dog, but reputationally it’s a kick for Dwayne Peel to be seen to be turning his back on a contract he’s already signed, and for the Scarlets to be tapping up a coach with the offer of a guaranteed head coaching job and more money. Other teams may well question whether to do business with both in the aftermath to this.
It leaves a bad taste in the mouth all round, but for Cardiff Blues looking forward if Peel is not fully committed to the project at the Arms Park then there’s little point forcing him to honour the contract he signed. The aim now is to secure the best possible compensation package from the Scarlets to release the contract.
That should total at least a six-figure sum and gives us the opportunity to re-invest that ahead of the 2021/22 season which will hopefully be under a newly tied-down Dai Young on a longer term contract.
Now they could look to bring another coaching addition in to replace the lost Peel, but for my money I’d stick with the current backroom set up for next year at least. Duane Goodfield and Tom Smith will benefit from working with Young, and Richard Hodges is marshalling the defence well.
When it came to the Peel appointment there were question marks over the future of Richie Rees, the current backs/attack coach, and I’ve certainly not been a fan of much of the attack under his stewardship over the last two years. However, this last two months have seen a big upturn in fortunes and been enough for me to be happy with letting our former scrum-half have another season in sole charge.
So with the coaching staff set, I’d be focusing that money on bolstering the pack, and specifically signing a primary ball carrier whether that comes in the second row or the back row, as that is what we desperately need in order to take this squad to the next level.
The quality and potency of the backs has been evident for all to see, the physicality of the pack defensively and at the attacking breakdown has taken great strides this season, the set piece has tightened up dramatically, but we lack a big ball carrying presence to turn to when we need to generate a platform in the same way the likes of Nick Williams and Xavier Rush have done over the years.
We have good ball carrying forwards in the form of Rhys Carre, Corey Domachowski, Kris Dacey, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, James Ratti, Ben Murphy, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi and Alun Lawrence, but none are what I would define as a ‘primary ball carrier’, someone who you know would bash you over the gain line every time they got ball-in-hand, with the fitness of Sam Moore completely unknown.
If we can add that to the squad for next season with the money secured for releasing Peel then that would soften the blow of losing out on a talented young coach and still give us a great chance to push for the play-offs and Heineken Champions Cup qualification next season.
Nothing is ever plain sailing at the Arms Park, but hopefully we can make the best of a bad situation.