Welsh rugby crisis: Which players are moving where?

A traumatic season for Welsh rugby has left the long-term futures of numerous players across the nation's four regions in doubt.

Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets have agreed a new six-year funding framework for the game with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

However, there will be a salary cap for 2023-24 of £5.2m for each of the four teams which will be reduced to £4.5m the following season.

Talks over the new financial arrangements had been going on since July 2022, with the long delay in finalising terms having left many players in limbo.

Many players are facing drastic pay cuts or have even been left without a club as Welsh rugby looks to avoid the same fate that befell Wasps, Worcester Warriors and London Irish in England.

Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) chair Ashton Hewitt, the Dragons wing, said he expected players to leave Wales if they are offered significant pay cuts and that has proved the case.

BBC Sport Wales brings you a round-up of all the news and gossip surrounding players' futures.


Liam Williams in training with Cardiff
Liam Williams is leaving the Arms Park for Japan after the World Cup

Cardiff have been in crisis made since before the end of the 2022-23 season despite finishing as the best-placed Welsh team in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

A combination of financial concerns and the suspension of director of rugby Dai Young mean Cardiff barely engaged on the transfer market until July.

Young has now split from the club, despite the bullying allegations from April having been dropped, and has been replaced by his assistant Matt Sherratt, though ex-Wales coach Rob Howley had been strongly linked with the job.

As for the squad his successor will inherit, Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back Liam Williams is the 17th player confirmed to be leaving Cardiff this summer.

Former Scarlet Williams, 32, is only halfway through a two-year deal at the Arms Park but will be allowed to join Kubota Spears in Japan after the World Cup, as the capital club look to slash their wage bill.

Prior to that, the club confirmed 16 players who were leaving the Arms Park this summer.

Wales scrum-half Lloyd Williams leaves after 42 tries in 260 appearances, having joined championship club Ealing Trailfinders. where former Wales international Jonah Holmes also plays.

Centre Rey Lee-Lo was among the initial 16 departures, but re-signed in August, as did fellow backs Harri Millard and Jamie Hill.

Wales hooker Kirby Myhill also left the Arms Park while number eight James Ratti has switched to rivals Ospreys.

Wing Jason Harries is joining Wales' Josh Navidi in retirement while Rhys Priestland could also do so.

Wales hooker Kristian Dacey had announced his retirement but is now joining part-timers Brecon.

Lock Joe Peard and prop Brad Thyer are also leaving the Arms Park.

Prop Dimitri Arhip and centre Willis Halaholo have also turned down vastly reduced contracts with Cardiff unable to offer competitive deals.

Wales prop Dillon Lewis has followed Evans to Harlequins and centre Max Llewellyn is also moving to England to join Gloucester.

The arrival of Lewis at Harlequins has prompted Wales-qualified prop Rhys Litterick to move in the opposite direction to the Arms Park.

Josh Adams insisted he is staying despite being mentioned as a target for French side Lyon.

Tinus de Beer and ex-Dragon Arwel Robson have arrived to fill the gap left at outside after Jarrod Evans joined Harlequins while Priestland looks set to retire after turning down a new contract.

Newly capped Wales props Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti have both committed their futures to the club along with fellow front-row, hooker Liam Belcher.

Former England Under-20s prop Ciaran Parker has joined having been left without a club following the collapse of London Irish.

New Wales lock Teddy Williams, wing Theo Cabango - the brother of Wales football international Ben, and centre Ben Thomas have also all signed new contracts to remain at the Arms Park.


Ashton Hewitt
Ashton Hewitt is among 11 current Dragons to sign new deals with the region

Wales squad member Cai Evans will head to Rodney Parade next season from Ospreys.

The 24-year-old, who has played at full-back in recent times as well as fly-half, is part of Warren Gatland's extended World Cup training squad.

Wales and British and Irish Lions veteran flanker Dan Lydiate has rejoined Dragons, where he began his career as a teenager, following his Ospreys exit.

Dragons have also signed Argentina prop Rodrigo Martinez who was left without a club following the collapse of London Irish.

Leigh Halfpenny has also been reported to be in talks over linking up again with his former Scarlets kicking mentor Dai Flanagan, now Dragons head coach.

Dragons were the first region to announce new deals when they confirmed seven players have signed to remain at Rodney Parade.

Wales hooker Elliott Dee and fellow capped back row Ollie Griffiths, as well as centre Jack Dixon, wing Ashton Hewitt, number eight Harrison Keddie, prop Lloyd Fairbrother and lock Joe Davies have all agreed new contracts.

Since then, centre Steff Hughes also committed his future to Rodney Parade, as did brothers Jared and Ewan Rosser, and Samoa prop Aki Seiuli. Scrum-half Dane Blacker and utility back Corey Baldwin are both joining for next season after leaving Scarlets.

However, former World Young Player of the Year Sam Davies and Wales prop Rob Evans are among those leaving at the end of 2022-23.

They follow the exit of Wales back row Ross Moriarty, who has already joined Brive, while lock Will Rowlands previously confirmed he will also be in France next season, and will join Racing 92.

Fly-half Sam Davies has joined French second division side Grenoble while another number ten, JJ Hanrahan, is heading for Connacht for the 2023-24 season.

Lock Huw Taylor, back-row pair Ben Fry and Lennon Greggains and utility back Ioan Davies will also depart.


Ospreys face losing a clutch of their biggest names this season, due to what head coach Toby Booth described as Welsh rugby's "catastrophic" contract issues.

Alun Wyn Jones has left after 17 seasons at the club and has taken up a shot-term deal in France with Toulon as cover during the World Cup.

Also heading to France next season are scrum-half Rhys Webb, who is joining Biarritz, while Tomas Francis Tom Francis negotiated an early release from his contract has to take up a three-year deal in with French second division team Provence.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe is another player heading to Japan after signing with Toyota Suntory Goliath, while Lydiate is returning to Dragons.

Fly-half Steven Myler has already confirmed he will retire while hooker Scott Baldwin is also hanging up his boots to take a coaching role with Newcastle Falcons.

Joe Hawkins' departure to Exeter Chiefs has means he cannot play for Wales given he has only won five caps, well below the 25-cap threshold.

Back row Ethan Roots has also joined Exeter and ex-Wales Under-20s centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler has signed for Japanese side Toyota Shokki Shuttles.

Michael Collins has also confirmed his future lies elsewhere while back-row Sam Cross is moving to Newcastle Falcone.

In more positive news, Wales prop Nicky Smith has turned down a move to England by signing a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium.

Booth had previously said he was "powerless" to stop Smith leaving, with Exeter having been linked to the 42-cap international.

Justin Tipuric has stepped down from Test rugby but confirmed he will continue with the Ospreys for at least another season.

Wales back-row Jac Morgan was the first Ospreys player to confirm a new deal with the region.

He was followed by Wales fly-half Owen Williams, number eight Morgan Morris and centre Keiran Williams. while James Ratti has re-joined from Cardiff.

Ospreys have signed former Scarlets scrum-half Luke Davies.

Props Rhys Henry and Ben Warren as well as Back-row Will Griffiths and fly-half Luke Scully have also agreed new contracts for next season.

Wales Under-20s head coach Mark Jones has also been linked with a move to the Swansea.com stadium as defence coach.


Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Patchell
Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Patchell have been team-mates for both Wales and Scarlets

Scarlets have so far been the busiest of the regions on the transfer market though have also seen several high-profile players leave.

Wales backs Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Patchell are the highest profile of 15 players leaving Parc y Scarlets this summer as head coach Dwayne Peel dramatically cuts his squad.

Patchell has since signed a one-year deal with New Zealand Super Rugby side Highlanders. while Halfpenny has been linked with a move to Dragons.

Peel expects to have a squad of about 38 players in 2023-24, compared to about 50 this season, as they absorb financial cuts.

Among those leaving is former captain and Wales forward Aaron Singler who is retiring following 15 years at Llanelli.

Sione Kalamafoni is heading to French side RC Vannes, Scotland prop Javan Sebastian will join Edinburgh and scrum-half Dane Blacker and back Corey Baldwin have signed for Dragons.

Lewis Rawlins, Tom Price, Phil Price, Taylor Davies, Daf Hughes and Iestyn Rees will also be leaving, while Alex Jeffries has been forced to quit rugby due to fitness issues.

Wales prop WillGriff John was released and has since joined Racing 92 as cover during the World Cup.

Argentina forward Tomas Lezana moved to Montauban in February.

However, they have also re-signed several players including Taine Plumtree from New Zealand and Scotland international Alex Craig.

Flanker Plumtree, the son of former Swansea head coach John, has joined from Super Rugby outfit Blues and provides cover across the back row.

Craig, twice capped by Scotland, joins from Gloucester is joined by another new second row in Ed Scragg, who played for Wales Under-20s and was available following the collapse of London Irish.

They are not the only players heading across the Severn Bridge. Scarlets have captured Wales fly-half Ioan Lloyd after four years at Bristol, wing Tomi Lewis is heading back to Parc y Scarlets from Jersey Reds.

Loughborough University title-winners Teddy Leatherbarrow and Charlie Titcombe have also signed for next season. while scrum-half Efan Jones has joined from north Wales Premiership club RGC.

Centre trio Joe Roberts, Ioan Nicholas and Eddie James have all agreed new contracts with their home region, as has Wales hooker Ryan Elias.

Wales tight-head prop Sam Wainwright and loose-head Kemsley Mathias are also staying while Wales Under-20s scrum-half Alfie Hughes has also signed a new deal.

The wider impact of financial restrictions also influenced Llanelli RFC's decision to withdraw from the Welsh Premiership for 2023-24. with the club expecting to face greater demands for players from the regional side.

Welsh exiles

Players already based outside Wales could also be on the move - lock Cory Hill among them.

He had been "desperate" to return to Wales to resurrect his international career but has returned to Japan, with an as yet unnamed team, after failing to secure a contract in Wales, England or France.

Montpellier prop Henry Thomas had feared any involvement in this autumn's World Cup could curtail his future in France.

Thomas was selected by Warren Gatland in his provisional World Cup squad but has been told he may now be allowed to return to defending French champions after the tournament.

Ex-Dragons and Wales centre Tyler Morgan has renewed his contract with Biarritz while another former centre, Ashley Beck, has joined Worcester Women as attack coach.