Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Welsh rugby passed a landmark moment this week announcing four further National Dual Contracts to take the total number of players under joint contract with the WRU and Pro Rugby teams past the symbolic XV mark.

Ospreys quartet No8 Dan Baker, uncapped lock Rory Thornton, flanker James King and hooker Scott Baldwin take the total number of players now contracted under the new system to 16 allowing, in theory, the Wales head coach Warren Gatland the opportunity to select an entire team of NDC players.

The Ospreys have eight NDC players, with the four recently announced joining Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Lydiate on dual contracts.

Wales U20s captain Thornton is currently the only uncapped player on the list after both Tyler Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons) and Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) were awarded full honours during the recent Rugby World Cup.

Both Baker and Thornton are products of the Ospreys development pathway. Baker, 23, won the first of his three Wales caps on the 2013 tour of Japan. He has played 39 times for the Ospreys, scoring 10 tries.

Still only 20, Thornton led Wales at U20 level in this year’s Six Nations and Junior World Cup, and has already made 13 senior appearances for his home region.

Baldwin, 27, made his international debut in 2013, has won 15 caps and started at hooker in every match of Wales’ recent 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter-final-reaching campaign.

Having graduated from Bridgend Ravens to regional rugby he made his Ospreys debut in 2008 and is now just nine games short of a century of appearances.

King, 25, also featured in the recent World Cup winning the latest of his seven caps at No8 against Uruguay in the pool stages of the competition after making his Wales debut on their summer tour of Japan in 2012.

He arrived at the Ospreys from North Wales as a teenager, making his debut in 2009, and has played 115 times for the region.

The Blues were the first to take advantage of the new NDC’s putting Wales captain Sam Warburton on their books in 2014 and have since added full-back Anscombe.

Props Rhodri Jones and Samson Lee, lock Jake Ball and centre Scott Williams make up the four-strong Scarlets contingent and wing Hallam Amos and centre Morgan take up two spots for the Dragons.

“This is great news for Welsh rugby, especially coming so soon after the announcements of two further NDC contracts yesterday,” said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips.

“It is so important to the national squad set-up that the coaches and elite performance staff have access to a core group of players.

“NDC’s are a way of ensuring access in a way that is mutually beneficial to both the regions and the national side and also to the individual players themselves.

“I would like to welcome the new players on board but also commend the vision of all 16 players in taking up the NDC offer.”

Andrew Millward, Rugby General Manager, Ospreys Rugby, said: “The concept of the National Dual Contract is not just about retaining the services of marquee players, but also, about allowing us to keep hold of the next tier underneath that.

“In Dan and Rory we have two young men who have started to make an impression regionally and in the national environment. James and Scott have the qualities and characteristics that we want from our players at the Ospreys and we are delighted that their talents are now being recognised on a wider stage.”

“While they both still have a long way to go and a lot of hard work in front of them if they are to reach their full potential, they can now focus on achieving that while knowing they have the full support of both the Ospreys and the WRU.”

Dan Baker said: “This is great news for me. I’m honoured to have signed an NDC and the challenge for me now is to fully establish myself, first and foremost at the Ospreys and then after that, hopefully with Wales. It won’t be easy but an NDC gives me the best opportunity to do that.”

Rory Thornton added: “I’ve had an incredible year throughout 2015 with my first Ospreys start, captaining Wales at U20 level and being a part of the extended World Cup squad.

“The challenge for me now is to build on that and really kick on. With an NDC and the support of both the WRU and the Ospreys, hopefully I can continue improving as a player and really kick on.”

Scott Baldwin said: “I’m really happy to have been able to sign an NDC after the World Cup. It has given me the opportunity to know where I’m at for the next three or four years with regards to staying in Wales and allows me to focus on doing all I can for the Ospreys and for Wales, if selected, over the coming seasons, which is what NDC’s are all about.”

James King, added: “The NDC’s are important for Wales and the regions so I’m really pleased to have become the latest Osprey to have signed one of these contracts. Hopefully I can now build on what I’ve achieved with region and country so far, knowing that I’m in the best place possible to further my career.”