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Stuart Barnes urges Wales not to drop to three professional teams

Stuart Barnes

Stuart Barnes has urged the Welsh Rugby Union to retain four professional teams amid reports they could cut one of the regions.

Welsh rugby fans have endured a tough season, as Wales finished fifth in the Six Nations after winning just one of their five matches, while none of the four regions will qualify for the URC play offs.

The WRU are reportedly considering reducing the number of regions from four to three, in a move which they hope would make the game more financially viable while also increasing the quality of the remaining three sides.

Plenty have already called on the WRU to resist such a move, with former England international Stuart Barnes arguing that it would damage the sport in the long term in his column for The Times.

Stuart Barnes calls on Wales to keep four regions.

“Warren Gatland’s fine side masked the long-term problem. Wales have won the Six Nations on six occasions this century. It is a fine record but the foundations have been collapsing beneath them with ever-weakening professional regions,” Barnes wrote.

“Identity has been sacrificed for a system intended to help the national team. As a business proposition, the reliance on the Wales team is diabolically precarious.

“Wales was — at its greatest — a tribal rugby land. Cutting the number of professional teams will only hasten the decline of the sport. It is beginning to look like an inevitable decline.

“The professional models of regional/provincial rugby were as unsuitable for Wales as they were wonderful for Ireland. Wales had teams with tremendous identity.”

Several options are being considered.

Several options are available to the WRU, including retaining the four regions as they currently are, while there are also multiple different ways in which they could reduce the number of professional teams in the country from four to three.

One option would be to merge the Ospreys and the Scarlets, which was considered back in 2019, although that idea met fierce opposition and was ultimately taken off the table.

Another option would be to cut the Ospreys, which are historically Wales’ most successful region, while another is to cut the Dragons, which are historically and currently the weakest region.

Cutting one team would also have wider implications for the sport, with the four Welsh regions making up one of the four conferences in the URC, which would be thrown out of balance should one of the sides be cut.

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