Everyone accepts it’s been a hugely disappointing season in Welsh rugby, on both the international and domestic front. But there have been individuals who have shone among the gloom. So here then is our regional team of the season.
15. Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets)
He arrived from the Crusaders with a reputation as one of New Zealand’s finest finishers and five years on he’s as predatory as ever, having touched down nine times in his ten outings this season, while also demonstrating his astute decision-making when entering the line from full-back.
14. Owen Lane (Cardiff)
The leading try scorer in regional rugby this term, with ten to his name, and he is also in the top five in the United Rugby Championship for clean line breaks. Elsewhere, it’s been great to see Keelan Giles back fit again and recapturing some of his old sharpness.
13. Rey Lee Lo (Cardiff)
Now 36, but still delivering the goods. The classiest of centres, he’s proved one of the most valuable overseas imports of recent times. Few better at the sliding, gliding outside break, while he’s joint-second for carries in the URC among the Welsh-based contingent.
12. Scott Williams (Scarlets)
Has been a player re-born since returning to the Scarlets after three injury-plagued years at the Ospreys. Can consider himself unfortunate not to have been recalled to the Wales set-up at some point as no home-grown centre has caught the eye more consistently.
11. Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets)
A big season for the 23-year-old from Saundersfoot. The potential and promise has been obvious for some time, but now he’s getting regular rugby and he’s making the most of it, showing off those “beat you in a phone box” feet. A nightmare to defend against. Unlucky to miss out on a Wales tour spot.
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets)
Having returned to Wales from Leicester, the Pencoed product had to bide his time during his first year at the Scarlets, amid limited opportunities. But this term he’s had his chance and steadily blossomed. Has just been named as the region’s Breakthrough Player of the Season.
9. Rhys Webb (Ospreys)
Wales continuing to look elsewhere at scrum-half has proved the Ospreys’ gain, because Webb has been such a pivotal figure with his tactical control, running game and leadership as skipper. Mention too for another thirtysomething in Lloyd Williams.
1. Rhys Carre (Cardiff)
A tight call this, with Ospreys duo Gareth Thomas and Nicky Smith having had fine campaigns, but Carre just edges it for his form since the Six Nations, with his ball carrying power bringing another layer to the loosehead role. We wait to see if he can kick on in South Africa now.
2. Dewi Lake (Ospreys)
Since returning from a lengthy lay-off with an ankle injury, the Bridgend-born 23-year-old has been oustanding. We all knew about his carrying and his work over the ball. It was his lineout throwing that was seen as his Achilles Heel. With that sorted, he looks the real deal.
3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys)
Having made the move to Wales after seven seasons with Exeter in order to prolong his international career, he has actually become a more regular starter than he was down in Devon, serving as the Ospreys’ foundation stone at the scrum, just as he done at Test level for years.
4. Sam Lousi (Scarlets)
The player of the season in Welsh rugby in my book. Had a few disciplinary issues initially following his move from the Hurricanes, but has resolved those now and has been a joy to watch, with his basketball skills and his athleticism, both at the lineout and around the field.
5. Will Rowlands (Dragons)
Was Wales’ stand-out player during the Six Nations and has replicated that form when on domestic duty. As Dragons boss Dean Ryan rightly says, you don’t often get players of his size with his agility. Will tackle and carry for you all day long. An absolute work-horse.
6. Sione Kalamafoni (Scarlets)
A bit of shuffling required here, as I couldn’t leave the Tongan torpedo out of this team and he has switched from 8 to 6 on occasions. By some distance the top carrier in the URC, while he has also made the third-most tackles in the competition. A hat-tip too for Harri Keddie.
7. Jac Morgan (Ospreys)
It’s been well documented that no player has made more turnovers in the URC this season, which has of course seen eyebrows raised over Wayne Pivac saying he needs to improve his work over the ball. But Morgan has also made the second-most tackles, with just Ulster’s Nick Timoney ahead of him. Some stats for Wales to leave at home.
8. Morgan Morris (Ospreys)
Like his back row team-mate Jac Morgan, the 23-year-old Morris couldn’t have done much more to put his hand up for international selection, continuing the consistent form he has demonstrated for the past couple of seasons, ploughing forward remorselessly from the base.