Andy Lloyd: Something's got to give soon in Welsh rugby
THE Ospreys have warned that Welsh rugby is heading for a period of fixture overload that is going to stretch the regions' resources to snapping point.
For the LV= Cup encounter against Harlequins the weekend after next, the Pro12 champions estimate they will be without 24 players.
And the following week the situation is unlikely to have improved, with Steve Tandy's side taking on Pro12 leaders Ulster at Ravenhill in a league date that will be played against a backdrop of Six Nations games at senior and under-20s levels, plus a full programme of Premiership fixtures.
"Something has to give," said the region's rugby operations manager, Andy Lloyd.
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"We have nine players in Wales's senior squad, seven in the under-20s and expect to carry around eight injured players at any given time.
"That means we'll be without around 24 players for the game with Quins and probably for the Pro12 match with Ulster as well.
"It's going to be a huge juggling act and we are going to have to call on players from the Premiership.
"The problem is it has a knock-on effect for the likes of Swansea, Bridgend, Neath and Aberavon, who have to permit youngsters in from lower-division clubs to fill their sides for league matches.
"You have to question where all these players are supposed to come from.
"It isn't just the Ospreys, either. The other regions are going to be hit as well. You look at the Scarlets and they have similar numbers involved at representative level.
"There is a scheduling issue here and we need to sit down and see how we can make the season run more smoothly."
The situation would be improved by one of the competitions taking a breather on busy weekends.
The problem is finding alternative dates to play.
But Lloyd is convinced that with extra thought a solution can be worked out. "If we could schedule it so that the Premiership didn't play on these hectic weekends that would take a lot of strain off everybody," he said.
"When there are three competitions that's fine — we can control that. But it gets more difficult when there are four on the go and you have players involved in all those.
"We have three Pro12 games in Ireland coming up in the space of three weeks and we are going to have to call on Premiership players with all the issues that will then pose for their clubs.
"Those clubs are at the wrong end of the Premiership but they have been playing our young players and doing what they can to support regional rugby.
"But sometimes it comes down to an issue of numbers, and the worry is the stocks of players in Wales are not high enough to sustain involvement in so many competitions at the same time.
"It's a situation that isn't going to go away. We can see there's a problem and we need to deal with it."