Scarlets stunned after Owen Williams signs for Leicester Tigers
SCARLETS head coach Simon Easterby has admitted he was surprised and disappointed at Owen Williams's decision to join Aviva Premiership giants Leicester Tigers at the end of the season.
After seeing him make a big impact at Parc y Scarlets over the last couple of months, the Llanelli-based region had high hopes for the 21-year-old fly-half.
The Scarlets say they had discussed a new contract with Williams, who kicked a match-winning haul of 21 points against the Tigers in the LV= Cup last month before delivering man-of-the-match displays in the Pro12 wins over Connacht and Munster.
But he has instead opted on a move to Welford Road.
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"Of course, Owen goes with our best wishes for the future and we wish him every success," said Easterby.
"He is still a young Welsh player with a lot to experience and prove and in making this decision we sincerely hope he gains a lot from his time at an English Premiership club.
"We'd like to be clear that we had discussed a new contract with him, and made his representative fully aware of our willingness to discuss securing his future as a rugby professional with us.
"Unfortunately, this sudden move came to us with no warning or discussion and is a surprise to us in the context of what we would consider to be in the best interests for Owen going forward."
Williams would have faced plenty of competition for the fly-half jersey next season with Rhys Priestland, Steven Shingler — who is returning from London Irish — Aled Thomas, Dan Newton and the versatile Jordan Williams all in contention.
But at the Tigers, he will have to oust England No. 10 Toby Flood, Kiwi Dan Bowden and Ryan Lamb, who has signed from East Midlands rivals Northampton Saints.
Easterby added: "Owen has been on our development pathway for a number of years and is another example of a young player we have invested in and that has progressed well within our system — highlighted by his involvement with the senior squad this season.
"We had fully expected him to continue on that journey with us following the significant commitment this region has made in developing his rugby skills and experience to date. We have handed him some excellent opportunities recently this season which he has taken very well and which we believed showed our intent to develop him further as a Scarlets player.
"However, sometimes performances on the bigger stages bring with it additional attention from outside our group and he along with his agent have made his decision to move to England at the end of his development contract."