Dan Lydiate, the Wales flanker who helped the Lions to victory over the Wallabies last year and then sent his own career into free fall with an ill-judged move to Racing Métro in France, completed a much-anticipated return journey Tuesday by joining the Ospreys, for whom he will be available next week.
Lydiate signed one of the governing body’s new-fangled dual contracts, which means he will be jointly managed by his regional boss, Steve Tandy, and the national coach, Warren Gatland.
With the Wales captain, Sam Warburton, already on a similar deal, dual contracts are likely to mushroom. The obvious question – “Who next?” – has many possible answers, but the most intriguing candidate is the young Leicester outside-half Owen Williams, who joined the Midlanders from another West Wales region, Scarlets. His name is being mentioned regularly as a potential target for Gatland, who wants the vast majority of his World Cup contenders operating on home soil, where he can keep an eye on them.
Williams hit the heights last weekend, playing a leading role in Leicester’s important European Champions Cup victory over Toulon, and is the undisputed number one No 10 at Welford Road. The Premiership club will fight to keep the 22-year-old: having backed a hunch when no one in Wales seemed much interested in him, the thought of Williams disappearing just when the gamble is bearing fruit is not a pleasant one.
England’s shot at recapturing the Six Nations title after Christmas will depend, at least in part, on them developing a positive relationship with two fine French referees. Jérôme Garcès has been given the big opening game with Wales in Cardiff on 6 February, while Romain Poite will control the match with Scotland.