By LYN JONES
PEOPLE MIGHT regard my move from London Welsh to the Dragons as a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, but as a coach challenges come in many forms. For some it’s about winning cups, but I enjoy coaching individuals to become better players and I like seeing them rewarded with bigger and better contracts.
My task at the Dragons is to make them realise they’re not a bottom-of-the-table team and to instil in them the confidence to grow and fulfil their potential.
It’s good to be back coaching in Wales after four years away. I don’t share some people’s negative views about the state of the game within the regions and clubs. A lot of opinion suggests that with Cardiff City and Swansea both in the Premier League, rugby will suffer, but let’s not kid ourselves: Wales is full of soccer players. I regard football as our national game but rugby as our international game and having two clubs in the Premier League is positive for the country. Yes, there will be a negative effect on jersey sales and sponsorship, but the real problem facing domestic rugby in Wales is TV coverage.
You can watch rugby on a Friday or Saturday night, even on a Sunday afternoon, but not at 3pm on a Saturday, and that’s when most rugby fans want to sit down in front of their television. It’s a big area where we can improve but will we? Before I left Wales, when I was coaching the Ospreys, all the regions and clubs worked together for the good of the game, but it seems nowadays they are only doing what’s best for themselves.
Fortunately at the Dragons I’ve walked into a club that’s overcome its problems and is very much looking forward to the future. I’ve got Kingsley Jones to help and his experience will prove invaluable.
Toby Faletau’s decision to sign a two-year contract extension was a big boost and hopefully it will buck the trend of our big-name players leaving. In recent seasons we’ve lost Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris and Aled Brew. We’ve got to stop that happening by getting players to understand that the Dragons are trying to create an environment in which they’ll become the best region in Wales. Toby staying sends a strong message to fans that our board is going to stand up at last.
There are lots of talented young players at the Dragons. Wales can be proud of its academies and that was one of the hardest things I found at London Welsh; with no academy, I had to buy yesterday’s players rather than bring through youngsters. Will I name one or two players I think will break through this season? No. I’m going to be careful what I say or else an agent or a rich club might come calling!