FORMER Dragons assistant coach Dai Rees has called for the Welsh Rugby Union to support players who leave to ply their trade overseas.

Talking of the state of the game in Wales, Rees claims that the WRU are undermining the development of players and coaches in Wales because they lack a central development structure, as well as well-qualified Welshmen in key positions.

Rees, who is currently in charge of rugby in Hong Kong, said: “In Wales we will always produce world class elite players but we have to accept that players like Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate will leave for a few years. The most important issue to consider is pro-active management of these players.”

Rees cites former Scarlets and Wales stand-off Stephen Jones, currently at London Wasps, as an example of a player who has benefitted from time away from the Welsh game, in his case in France.

“He is a great example of a player who, by spending two years away, fulfilled a personal ambition, made money and returned to Wales a better player.”

The former Newbridge, Newport and Cross Keys player feels that there is a future for the regional game in Wales, but that a “correct, centrally governed structure with a clear elite performance pathway” is needed for players and young coaches wishing to develop their professional careers.

He says that there could be a place for a development region alongside three fully fledged regions.

“I believe Wales can sustain four regions. The structure of these regions needs to be part of the long term vision and would probably include a development region.”

Rees believes the Dragons should further invest in the development of the game around the region, an area which he feels has always produced great players.

“Investment should be made in a true performance platform that unites the region. We have, and always will have, a great performance player base in Gwent. It is great to see young local boys coming through but much more needs to be done by the senior Dragons management to engage the wider communities of Gwent.”

  • Follow a series of Dai Rees’ in-depth insights into the state of the game in Wales at Robert Pike’s blog on