‘Recruitment will be minimal’ – Cost-cutting Dragons hopeful on keeping stars
DRAGONS boss Dai Flanagan admits cutting costs means recruitment will be minimal this summer as they attempt to avoid leading players following Will Rowlands out of the exit.
The loss of Wales lock Rowlands was confirmed at the start of December with the co-captain bound for French giants Racing 92.
A raft of senior players are also out of contract at the end of the season and the Dragons are unable to offer contracts because of a recruitment and retention freeze in Welsh professional rugby.
The Rodney Parade club, Cardiff, the Ospreys and Scarlets cannot make offers while thrashing out a new six-year funding agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union, and that is dragging on and on.
The Dragons are braced for having to cut costs and that means Flanagan will not be able to match last summer’s recruitment drive that led to previous boss Dean Ryan bringing in first-teamers Bradley Roberts, Rhodri Jones, George Nott, Sean Lonsdale, Sio Tomkinson, JJ Hanrahan and Angus O’Brien.
“Recruitment will be minimal, let’s be honest. We’ve got to shave a hell of a lot off our budget and I am sure the others have to as well,” said the head coach.
“Retaining is the priority because I feel that we have a good group and continuity will be massive for us going forward, trying to make sure we can survive through it and be as successful as possible.”
Ross Moriarty, Elliot Dee, Ollie Griffiths, Ashton Hewitt, Steff Hughes, Sam Davies and Lloyd Fairbrother are among those approaching the end of their deals.
Asked if it was inevitable that more leading players would follow Rowlands out of the exit, Flanagan replied: “Not necessarily, we are trying to balance things fairly.
“Me, [head of recruitment] Rob Burgess and the chairman [David Buttress] have had lots of meetings about how we will react when we get the green light.
“It’s down to players and they have to decide if their valuation is high enough, it will be tough but I just want it to be as fair as possible.”
And ‘fair’ is not a word that the Dragons boss would use to describe the continuing freeze on contract offers.
“It’s tough for players. It’s the end of January and they played three games in nine days over Christmas not knowing where they are contractually,” said Flanagan.
“Every game comes with a risk and these boys are doing it week in, week out. We need to make sure we treat them fairly because it’s hard on them.
“The challenge for us is to move quickly when we get the green light. We are further along the road but we can’t speak values with players because there are still things to be tied up.
“Players know if they are wanted here and they then have to decide if the valuation is high enough while some know that they will have to find a club for next year.
“We can’t talk finances and that makes it difficult – if I tell someone they are wanted here then they need to know the value.”