What’s happened to the 34 players who left the Welsh regions amid pandemic as some remain unemployed

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Every year, a sizeable contingent of players leave the Welsh regions, either through their own choice to head for pastures new or through being released.

For those shown the door, it can often be challenging to find a new club and that’s particularly the case this summer amid cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

So here’s the full list of the 34 players moving on and the latest news on what the future holds for them.

CARDIFF BLUES

Nick Williams

If anyone has the natural attributes to be a bodyguard, it’s big Nick and that’s what he plans to do now following his retirement from playing. He has done his qualifications to work in close personal security and will moving into that area, while also hoping to remain involved in rugby in some capacity behind-the-scenes, having gained so much experience during his 16-year playing career.

James Down

Down’s story is an illustration of the lengths players now have to go to in order to find employment in these unprecedented times. Out of contract at the Blues and aware opportunities were likely to be limited in the UK amid Covid-related cutbacks, the 32-year-old lock jumped at the chance to join Russian club Lokomotiv Penza. He made his debut for them in a victory over Enisei-STM just over a week ago.

Macauley Cook

Jersey Reds are the new home for the 28-year-old back five forward, who will now be plying his trade in the English Championship. He made 167 appearances for the Arms Park outit over a decade and was recently selected in the ultimate Blues team in the second row, following a public vote.

Rhun Williams

There were such high hopes for the north Walian full-back who was a Grand Slam winner with Wales U20s and was called into Warren Gatland’s senior squad in 2017. But, in February of the following year, he suffered nerve damage to his neck in making a try-saving tackle against Zebre. He underwent extensive rehabilitation, but eventually had to call it a day at the age of 22 and now it’s a case of focusing on life outside of rugby.

Filo Paulo

The Samoan international lock rejoined the Blues in November, having previously made 75 appearances for them between 2013 and 2015. It was a short-term deal until the end of the season and the 32-year-old has now moved on after six more outings.

Ryan Edwards

A similar story with Welsh-qualified winger Edwards. He came on board for a second spell in February, signing from Bristol for the remainder of the season in response to an injury crisis.

Rhys Davies

Having played at the Wern for most of last term, utility back Davies, 22, has now joined his home-town club of Merthyr permanently.

DRAGONS

Nic Cudd

Nic Cudd of Dragons looks on after a cut to the head
Nic Cudd put his body on the line for the Dragons (Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency)

Following his release, the warm words from fans about Cudd’s contribution during his eight years with the Gwent region spoke volumes, with the fearless flanker having become such a popular and respected figure with the way he put his body on the line time and time again. Now 31, the ex-Scarlets openside hasn’t sorted anything out for next season yet and is still looking around to see what’s out there.

Cory Hill

It’s back to the Arms Park for the Wales second row. Seven years on from being released by Cardiff Blues, he has rejoined the capital region after protracted speculation over his future. In all, he made 110 appearances for the Dragons, captaining the region and becoming an international regular during his time there, winning 25 caps and a Grand Slam.

Tyler Morgan

After seven years and 89 appearances with the Dragons, it’s time for a new challenge for the Welsh international centre, who has switched to the Scarlets. It’s hard to believe he is still only 24 given he seems to have been around for so long. The big hope now is he can have some better luck on the injury front.

Jacob Botica

The son of former All Blacks star Frano has joined Federale 1 club Rennes and is currently midway through pre-season. It will be his second spell in France as he was previously with Agen, while also having stints with Saint-Jean d’Angely and Saint-Medard. He signed for the Dragons in 2018 after impressing at fly-half for RGC 1404 and made ten appearances for the region, all but two of them as a replacement.

James McCarthy

Having been at the centre of an international tug-of-war three years ago, he now finds himself out of work. The Newport-born winger, who has played age-grade international rugby for both Wales and Ireland, rejoined the Dragons from Munster a year ago.

But didn’t make a senior appearance for the region, linking up with Wales Sevens after appearing in the Celtic Cup.

Rhys Lawrence

The 32-year-old hooker already has a lengthy list of teams on his CV, having had spells with Llanelli, the Scarlets, Ealing Trailfinders and Bristol Bears before linking up with the Dragons in 2018, making 16 appearances. Born in England, but brought up in Swansea and represented Wales U20s.

Dafydd Buckland

Has linked up with Pontypridd as he looks for more regular rugby. Won 12 caps for Wales U20s at scrum-half, but only played two games outside of that level in the 2019-20 season, both for Newport. The 20-year-old will also train with the Cardiff Blues Academy.

Tom Hoppe

The 21-year-old centre had been planning to play for Cardiff RFC this year, but that was put on hold due to the pandemic. He has one more year at Cardiff University and is looking to make his mark in Super Bucs rugby, with a view to opening some more doors.

Will Griffiths

Has represented Wales at U18s, U19s and U20s level, but the young Abergavenny-born wasn’t able to break through with the Dragons senior side.

James Sheekey

Having come on board from Cardiff in 2017, he made seven appearances in the back row that season, but opportunities dried up after that.

OSPREYS

Dan Baker

Welsh international Dan Baker has headed for France (Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)

The three-times capped No 8 will now be playing his rugby for French second division club Stade Montois, with no offers having come his way in Wales. Having been with the Ospreys since 2013, making 86 appearances, he was released earlier this year. A serious knee injury had kept him out of action from October 2017 to September 2019, while he damaged his shoulder following his return.

Aled Davies

The 20-cap scrum-half is now ineligible for Wales having moved to Saracens. He spent two seasons with the Ospreys, after joining them from Scarlets in 2018. Now 28, he admits it was a difficult decision to leave for England, but says he wants to win trophies and feels the European champions are a team he can do that with.

James Hook

He may have called time on his illustrious playing career, but Hook is poised to stay on at the Ospreys as the region’s kicking coach. There’s also another new chapter, with his role as an author of children’s books. The classy utility back won 81 Wales caps and had stints with Perpignan and Gloucester, while playing close on 150 games for the Ospreys in two spells.

Will Jones

Having been released by the Ospreys, the former Wales U20s captain is aiming to secure a place at Durham University, with the goal of then being picked up by an English Premiership club. The 22-year-old openside flanker, who was a schoolboy judo champion, found opportunities limited at the Liberty Stadium.

Darryl Marfo

As recently as November 2017, the London-born loosehead was starting for Scotland against New Zealand, now he finds himself without a club. Signed up by the Ospreys in December in response to a propping crisis, the former Harlequins, London Welsh, Bath and Edinburgh front rower made his debut against Saracens in the Champions Cup, but was limited to just one more outing before the sport went into lockdown. There has been some interest in the 29-year-old from France, but he remains a free agent at present.

Gheorghe Gajion

The Moldovan international prop has signed a two-year deal with French Pro D2 club Aurillac. Nicknamed “The Beast from the East” for his size and powerful carrying, he joined the Ospreys in 2018, making four appearances on the tight-head, while also turning out for Bridgend.

Lesley Klim

It’s island life now for the Namibian Test threequarter, who has joined English Championship clubs Jersey Reds after first heading there on loan in March. He played against both New Zealand and South Africa at the World Cup in Japan, but his appearances for the Ospreys were very limited during his two year stay amid injury issues.

Tom Williams

Shrewsbury-born but bred in Montgomeryshire, the Wales U20s and Sevens winger arrived at the Ospreys via RGC and made some ten appearances.

Ben Glynn

Joined from Harlequins last autumn, but then went out on loan to Northampton in February to cover a second row crisis and has now left the region.

SCARLETS

Hadleigh Parkes

The city of Ota will now be home for Parkes following his move to Japanese club Hadleigh Panasonic Wild Knights. It means the 32-year-old centre has played his final game for Wales as he now ineligible under the 60-cap rule, with 29 international appearances to his name. He spent six years with the Scarlets, having been brought over from the Hurricanes by Wayne Pivac in 2014.

Kieron Fonotia

Life has turned full circle for the 32-year-old Samoan international centre who is back in the land of his birth, New Zealand, and has rejoined Tasman Mako, which is where it all began for him a decade ago. After spending two tough seasons with the Ospreys following a move from the Crusaders, he switched to the Scarlets in 2018 and was sad to be released having enjoyed his time at the region.

Corey Baldwin

There was disappointment down west when the 21-year-old centre opted to leave to join Exeter. He had marked himself out as a real talent during his 11 appearances for Wales U20s and was impressing on his outings for the Scarlets. Being uncapped, he is not impacted by the 60-cap, while he is also eligible for England, having been born in Surrey.

Jonathan Evans

The 28-year-old scrum-half would be a good pick up for someone, as he’s proved himself to be a very accomplished operator at first the Dragons and then the Scarlets, while also having a spell with Bath. The livewire Bargoed product was capped no fewer than 18 times by Wales at U20s level. The Scarlets look set to bring in Will Homer from Jersey Reds to fill the vacancy created by Evans’ release.

Jonathan Evans on the attack for the Scarlets

Simon Gardiner

Sidelined at the minute after taking a bang to the head in February. But the 29-year-old prop is hoping to receive the all-clear from a specialist in the near future and will then be looking to secure a new club. He made more than 50 appearances for the Scarlets in two spells, while also turning out for Llanelli, Carmarthen Quins, Swansea and Cardiff in the Premiership.