Ross Moriarty: Dragons favourites to sign Lions forward from Gloucester

Ross Moriarty in action for Wales
Back-row Ross Moriarty has won 17 caps for Wales and scored two tries

Dragons are close to pulling off a major transfer by signing Wales back-rower Ross Moriarty.

The Gloucester player, 23, is keen to return to Wales next season following a change in Wales' selection policy.

Gloucester coach Johan Ackermann said on Tuesday that Moriarty "hasn't even come and seen me" about a new deal.

Moriarty responded to that on Twitter, saying: "I don't recall in my last contract for Gloucester that I was supposed to go and ask for a new one."

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Dragons head coach Bernard Jackman has met with Moriarty, who is out of contract at the end of the 2017-18 season after five years at Gloucester. Those talks have been described as "positive".

They were among several clubs interested in signing the back-rower but it is understood the change in the Welsh Rugby Union's national selection policy has persuaded Moriarty to move to Wales.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is only able to select players based outside of Wales on the condition they have won more than 60 caps.

Moriarty - who has 17 caps - is exempt for this season because of his existing contract with Gloucester, but he would become ineligible if he signed a new deal with the Cherry and Whites - or any other club outside Wales - after that.

Ackermann's comments certainly indicate that at this point there does not appear to be a new contract on offer to try to keep Moriarty with the English side.

"I must be honest Ross hasn't spoken to me at all, he hasn't even come and seen me at any stage discussing contracts or what are his future plans, or where he wants to be and why he wants to go," Ackermann told GloucestershireLive.

"If he doesn't come and speak with me I can't help him or comment on where I think he must be.

"I only know that Wales sides are chasing him but I know also that the club want to keep him so it's up to him to make decisions - but at this stage he didn't include me in that decision-making."

Scarlets were the initial favourites to sign Moriarty, given his father Paul previously worked at the region as assistant coach and it was announced Scotland back-rower John Barclay will leave the Llanelli-based side at the end of the season.

Wayne Pivac, the Scarlets coach, had shown interest in signing the Gloucester forward but that has cooled, appearing to clear the way for Dragons to complete what would be a marquee signing for the troubled region.

Pivac said: "Ross is a player I have talked openly about but we are busy in other directions.

Ross Moriarty
Ross Moriarty played for the British and Irish Lions against the Provincial Barbarians in June

"It is not a matter of missing out, it's a matter of us looking at what we want to do with our squad.

"I have not spoken to him since I was out in New Zealand two seasons ago with the Welsh team.

"We are busy in other directions looking at players that could be available for the whole season versus someone like Ross."

Pivac said Moriarty would only add to the number of players the region loses to international duty.

"Barclay is always away at this time of the year, do you bring in another one? The short answer to that is no. You get someone for this important period of time," Pivac added.

"We can't have 16 or 17 players away for half the season, otherwise we will have this fantastic team who will never be in the play-offs."

The capture of Moriarty, regarded as among the best prospects in Welsh rugby, would be a major signal of intent from new head coach Jackman as he looks to build a squad capable of reviving Dragons' fortunes.

Dragons forwards Elliott Dee and Leon Brown have both made their international debuts for Wales this month, while Hallam Amos has impressed with tries against both Australia and Georgia.

It would also serve as another sign of the impact made by the WRU's takeover of the Rodney Parade-based region.

Moriarty has only played once this season since he injured his back during the Lions tour to New Zealand.

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