Club v country row hits Wales Test - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Club v country row hits Wales Test

18/10/2008 09:53:33 AM Comments (0)

Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales saw their build-up to the November Tests against world champions South Africa, New Zealand and Australia rocked on Friday by an ugly club versus country row.

The country's four regional sides are at loggerheads with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) over player releases and even national coach Warren Gatland has been dragged into the damaging public spat.

Now it looks unlikely that Gatland will assemble his squad until five days before the November 8 Millennium Stadium clash with the Springboks despite initially requesting they join up after next weekend's penultimate round of Anglo-Welsh Cup fixtures.

The regions could find themselves chasing semi-final places when the pool stages conclude between October 31 and November 2.

On Friday, they issued a strongly-worded statement signed by Ospreys duo Roger Blyth and Mike Cuddy, Scarlets chief executive Stuart Gallacher, Newport Gwent Dragons' Gethin Jenkins and Cardiff Blues' Bob Norster.

The statement read: "Given the absence of meaningful dialogue with the Welsh Rugby Union to date, it has become apparent that reaching agreement on extended player release, at least in the short-term, is unlikely.

"The regions remain as committed as we have ever been to Welsh rugby.

"Last season, during World Cup year, as the WRU's own figures show, the regions released players for national duties for a combined total of 198 days, despite only being required to do so for 104 days.

"In return, the WRU have displayed contempt for the regions, offering and then reneging on agreements, arbitrarily shifting goalposts and, latterly, asking us via the national coach to effectively overlook the (Anglo-Welsh) Cup.

"However, all of these issues could be holistically addressed and resolved in the future through a new participation agreement, as the Premiership clubs and RFU (Rugby Football Union) have so successfully demonstrated in England."

Gatland is due to name his autumn Test squad next Tuesday.

But he stressed that five days' preparation for the opening Test was "insufficient".

Gatland said: "Everyone knows that five days' preparation is insufficient for a major international, and that is not questioned by the regions or their executives.

"My focus is straightforward, in that I want adequate preparation time for the players selected to represent Wales and nothing more."

A WRU spokesman added: "Anyone who cares about Welsh rugby will be disappointed to discover that the four regions have decided to go about their business in this way.

"We regard the statement as inaccurate and misleading and will be addressing these points with the individuals concerned."

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