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Historic cult heroes: Scarlets, Ospreys, Dragons, Cardiff Blues

Charlie Talbot-Smith

11 Aug 2017

With four Welsh regions represented in the Guinness PRO14, let’s get to know a bit more about the famous faces from these outfits.

These sides were formed in 2003, when regional rugby teams were introduced in Wales.

In 14 years of rugby history, who are their great players from the past and what are some of the decisive moments in the clubs’ history?

Scarlets

Last season was a memorable one for Scarlets fans as they followed by a third-placed finish with two stunning victories in Dublin.

After becoming the first team in the competition’s history to win an away semi-final when they beat Leinster at the RDS, they maintained that form with victory over Munster at the Aviva Stadium the following year.

A regular fixture towards the upper reaches of the table, the Scarlets have had plenty of cult heroes through the year, and we start with one of their most recognisable figures in Scott Quinnell.

The Wales and Lions legend was already one of the great No.8s in European rugby before the league came into existence but he continued to impress in his later years with the Scarlets.

If Quinnell is iconic among forwards, then of the backs it’s hard to look past fly-half Stephen Jones, who spent the majority of his playing career at Stradey Park. Now on the coaching staff at the club, Jones has only increased his reputation with the club he joined as a teenager.

More recently Ken Owens and Jonathan Davies, both Lions in 2017 (and in Davies’ case four years earlier as well), have cemented their places in Scarlets lore.

Owens was the club captain this season, although he missed the play-off run through injury, while Davies enjoyed some of the best form of his career on his return from a two-year spell in France.

Ospreys

With five league titles, there were plenty of great Ospreys figures to choose from.

Among them, Shane Williams is the Ospreys’ record try-scorer with 57. One of the most formidable finishers in Europe for over a decade, Williams was a man for the big occasion, notably with his last-gasp score to win the title back in 2012, as he set up a win with his final act for the club.

Equally iconic, in a very different style, tighthead Adam Jones was one of the leading props of his generation, a two-time Lion, and with one of the most distinctive hairstyles around.

A contemporary of that pair, and still going strong at the club, Alun Wyn Jones is back at the Liberty Stadium after a successful tour with the Lions where he started all three Tests for the third successive tour.

Dragons

The Dragons’ most successful league campaign to date was their first, when they took third-place in 2003-04, and beat Stade Français in the European Cup.

The skipper then was Andy Marinos, who ensured the club remained unbeaten at Rodney Parade in the league, with the Rhodesian-born Welsh centre later going on to become an important administrator in the game.

Personable hooker Steve Jones was another key figure for the early Dragons and holds the record for the most appearances, with 126 during a ten-year career.

More recently both Taulupe Faletau and Dan Lydiate have come through the ranks at the Dragons and become Lions, while current skipper Lewis Evans has captained the side since 2012 and has now made over 200 appearances for the club.

Cardiff Blues

Under Danny Wilson the Blues looked to be on the up, but during the mid-2000s they were one of the top sides in Europe, winning a Challenge Cup and coming within a whisker of a European Cup final.

Among the greats, a word must go to Ben Blair, the Blues’ record points-scorer with 1078, who was also a superb runner, distributor and capable defender from full-back.

That team featured a host of great players including the likes of Jamie Roberts, Nicky Robinson and Martyn Williams – the latter one of Wales’ greatest openside flankers.

His successor in that role has been just as good on the biggest stage, with Sam Warburton only the second man ever to captain the Lions on two tours.

Among others to have impressed in Cardiff, it’s important to single out a pair of Kiwi forwards, Xavier Rush and Paul Tito, who were mainstays of the pack for a long period, as was, and still is, loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins.