By Robin Davey
The Dragons’ bid to share Shaun Edwards with the Ospreys this season has collapsed due to a lack of cash.
The Wales defence coach – who is leaving to take over at Wigan after next year’s World Cup – has confirmed he will be working with the Swansea region on a consultancy basis.
Back in May, Wales coach Warren Gatland announced that Edwards would be working with both regions on a part-time basis, following a brief spell with the Cardiff Blues last season.
But the Dragons’ attempts to hire his world-renowned expertise has proved beyond their financial reach.
The Dragons’ budget remains stubbornly low – low, that is, in comparison with their rival regions.
Their playing/coaching budget for the new season is £4.5m and though that is £1m higher than last year thanks to the efforts of chairman David Buttress and his colleagues, it remains well below their rivals.
The Ospreys budget, for example, is said to be £6.3m, which is considerably higher than the Dragons’ financial position. The Scarlets budget is believed to be nearer £7m while Cardiff Blues’ is around the £6m mark.
On that basis the Dragons could not afford to add Edwards to their staff, even on a part-time basis.
For with the arrival of 14 new players in their ranks, changes to the coaching staff and the need to pay all their emerging players a fair bit more, their budget had been spent.
The Dragons chairman insists their budget is less than the others not because of debts but because of how far they were behind and how low their commercial revenues were.
The region had to prioritise the playing budget after their appalling record almost since the inception of regional rugby and they didn’t have sufficient money left to take Edwards on board as well.
Buttress believes the Edwards scenario proves people who thought the Dragons would receive preferential treatment from their major shareholder have been proved wrong.
He finds it annoying that many believe the WRU invest more in the Dragons when they put a million pounds more in each of the other regions because of what he describes as the historic structure of the WRU.
But while Buttress finds the situation frustrating he insists it will only add to the region’s determination to level the playing field for the Dragons. Major developments at Rodney Parade will happen, be sure of that.
On the field they got off to a pretty good start by winning at Ealing last Saturday in their first pre-season friendly and though it was against a Championship side it was still encouraging considering head coach Bernard Jackman has to integrate so many new players.
Friday night’s test against Northampton will give the Rodney Parade crowd a chance to see most of those newcomers in action and will provide a far sterner test as well as giving a clue how they will fare in the Pro 14 this season.
But with the drive of Jackman & Co on the pitch and the passion and commitment of Buttress & Co off it, the signs are promising at least. How far they will go remains to be seen.
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