Ospreys head coach Toby Booth has opened up on the ‘horrific’ conversations he had with Scott Williams and other players that will leave the region this summer.
Wales international Williams is the most high-profile of 12 players not to be offered a new contract at the Liberty Stadium, but Booth revealed clubs have already started sniffing around the centre.
The 30-year-old endured a frustrating three seasons at the Swansea-based region, where injuries restricted him to just 27 appearances.
He overcame a significant back injury in 2019 and was praised by then Wales boss Warren Gatland for even putting himself in contention for the World Cup squad.
Most recently, a shoulder injury has sidelined him since January and his contract will not be renewed.
Booth, who spoke to players that were being released personally, said: “It’s a horrific thing to have to broach. You do it as respectfully and honestly as you can – players respect honesty.
“It’s not a nice conversation. It’s effectively a selection conversation magnified ten-fold and that’s really brutal.
“I try to be as empathetic as I can and, with certain players, try and help by giving them good references for whatever their future entails.
“That would be the same for Scott, Luke Price and the other boys.
“They’re always difficult decisions. There are a multitude of reasons but I’m not going to dwell on an individual case, as you would expect.
“But there are things like availability, injury profile, cost. There are a lot of really good players here at the Ospreys and you have to make the best fit.
“It’s a really difficult time of year.”
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On a positive note, the 58-cap international is on the verge of returning to fitness, having overcome his latest setback.
Williams would likely be viewed as a handy addition by a plethora of clubs across Europe’s top leagues and Booth confirmed that clubs have already been in touch.
When asked if Williams had another contract in him elsewhere, Booth said: “100 percent. He’s as competitive as ever. He leads and talks well.
“I’ve had clubs asking me for references – I’m not going to tell you who they are, so don’t ask me! – around that sort of stuff.
“Scott is certainly not finished. He’s got the right attitude and wherever he ends up, he’ll definitely add value.
“The last one [injury] was a significant one but he’s back training now and he’s just about available for selection.
“So at least he’s fit and that provides an opportunity for future employment.”
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Booth added: “Scott’s conducted himself brilliantly throughout with regards to adherence to his rehab and obviously the disappointment.
“As you’d expect from a man of his standing – and I use the term man, not just player – to be. He was professional about it and he’s put his best foot forward.
“He hasn’t done anything other than be the consummate professional.
“The unfortunate thing with a lot of this is timing. We have to make decisions in real time.
“Whether that’s in game, in selection or recruitment. It’s difficult and you don’t always get it right but you do it based on the facts available to you and the situations that you find in front of you.”
Wales’ four professional rugby teams are still not clear on what level of payment they will receive from the Welsh Rugby Union ahead of next season.
Pre-pandemic, the regions were receiving around £20 million between them. That was slashed to just £3 million from the WRU plus a £20 million loan last term.
The five parties are still yet to reach an agreement over the payment for next season, meaning teams have been largely in the dark over their playing budget for next term.
Booth explained it has made things difficult but did not have a significant impact when it came to deciding which players to let go.
He also hinted that he now knows what his worst case scenario is in terms of a playing budget, though more money could come in when an agreement is finally reached of the WRU’s payments.
“It’s part of a big decision. You can’t spend what you haven’t got,” he explained.
“But it’s not as simple as just one thing. I understand the connection you’re trying to make and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world.
“It’s part of a bigger jigsaw. The sooner you know what you’ve got, the more accurate you can be.
“There’s obviously an influence and we’re working with everybody to find out what the financial certainty of the game is.
“But we know where we are financially for next year.
“I know what I’ve got to spend. That’s an internal thing, it’s not external.
“If that changes because of the external, which it may, then that is added value.
“We know where we are at this point in time.”