EX-NEWPORT Gwent Dragons favourite Rhys Thomas has slammed his old region as having “no ambition” in the wake of Dan Lydiate’s departure, and he is certain their other star Toby Faletau will be the next to leave.
Six Nations player of the year Lydiate is leaving Rodney Parade at the end of the season and is linked with a move to French glamour club Racing Métro.
He is the latest high profile Dragon to leave after lock Luke Charteris and wing Aled Brew went to France on big money deals last season to Perpignan and Biarritz respectively.
Retired tighthead prop Thomas, who won seven caps for Wales, fears for his former region but believes many of their woes are of their own making.
“The Dragons are really stuck in a rut and have no ambition,” he said.
“Dan’s departure is a massive blow for the Dragons and they just can’t compete with the money being thrown around by the biggest teams in Europe.
“Toby will be leaving at the end of his contract – he’s got nothing to keep him there.
“After Dan and Toby, the Dragons have no quality international players.
“They keep losing the biggest names but they aren’t replacing them with good players.”
Thomas had to quit the game earlier this year after he nearly died from a heart attack in January while training with the Scarlets, whom he joined in 2009 following six seasons with the Dragons.
The South African-born front row forward, who is currently doing a Welsh Rugby Union level three coaching course, also doesn’t believe the Drag-ons’ youth policy is working as a way of replacing top class personnel.
“I don’t think the young players are coming through,” he said. “I think they’ve got a poor academy infrastructure.
“They seem to have it right with their academies down west. I could see that when I was at the Scarlets.
“They have produced players like George North, Liam Williams and Aaron Shingler in recent years.”
Thomas added: “The Dragons have gone from being a competitive side, although never a top team, to the bottom of the pile and worse than Connacht, no disrespect to them.”
On Lydiate’s move away from Wales, he said: “Dan will do well wherever he goes. He’s a great player. He’s hard working, especially in defence. Dan would be a real asset to any side, not just Racing Métro.”
* The WRU have stated it is “disappointed” Lydiate will be leaving the Dragons.
A spokeswoman said: “Dan is an important player for Wales and we are aware of the financial pressure individuals of his stature face to play their rugby outside one of our four regions.
“This is precisely why the WRU and the four regions have announced the formation of a new Professional Regional Game Board to tackle priority issues of this nature.
“The announcement of his planned departure from Wales emphasises the importance of the new body and its relevance to the future sustainability and development of our regions.
“It is inevitable that representatives of our star players will be open to negotiation for their services outside Wales and we will do all in our power to ensure the playing, welfare and contractual environment here remains attractive to key individuals.