By Paul Jones
Welsh rugby officials have acknowledged that top players will need to find opportunities abroad if the national game is to survive amidst a climate of financial turmoil.
Although Warren Gatland’s Wales team have lost all three of their Six Nations matches, off-field issues have been even more concerning.
Out-of-contract Welsh players are currently unable to sign new deals, and even if they could, the proposals on the table are unimpressive considering the severe budget cuts that the country’s four regions are set to face next season.
Cardiff’s Liam Williams is mulling over a move to Japan, while another key Arms Park player, Josh Adams, is being sought by Lyon.
Unless the Welsh Rugby Union provide more central funding, the four regions will be unable to retain their international players.
Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young of Cardiff admits that nobody wants to lose their best players, but his region may have to let them go if it’s in the best interest of putting together a competitive squad.
Young also suggests that Welsh rugby must endure current financial difficulties for the four professional sides to survive.
“I expect us to lose a number of players, that’s the market,” said Young.
“There are a lot of standout players, those recognised as leading players for us, who have very competitive offers on the table from other clubs.
“They’re around the type of figures they are currently on, but we simply can’t match those offers for them to stay.
“A number of those players would prefer to stay, but we can’t be competitive.”
Welsh Rugby Stars Face Departures Amidst Financial Turmoil
Young confirmed that Williams and Adams have received interest from other clubs, while Harlequins are poised to sign fly-half Jarrod Evans.
“Players are looking at options elsewhere,” added Young. “But we have had no formal approaches from any clubs for our players to date.
“It would need to be a tri-party agreement anyway with the player, his region and the WRU if someone wanted to leave.
“Even if we said we were happy to release a player, the WRU would have to agree to it as well if they were a national squad member.”
Young added: “There are ongoing discussions between our board and the PRB about increasing the funding, but right now we can’t put competitive offers on the table.”
One issue is those players are under national squad contracts.
WRU can block Cardiff from offloading Wales pair as Dai Young says budget cuts are better than losing a region | @Steffan_Thomas1https://t.co/PsiTrzPTvK
— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) March 2, 2023
Welsh Rugby Union Regions to Cover Full Player Wages
Previously the WRU paid 80% of such contracts, but the regions look set to be handed the responsibility for paying the full wages, rather than 20% under the current agreement.
“There is a contribution coming our way for those national players, but only for one season, not beyond that,” added Young.
“These were players that were valued by the WRU, who decided their salaries. Regions put their hand up if they were interested in that player, but based on paying 20%. That’s very different to the full amount.”
The other regions are also braced for major departures.
The Ospreys are expected to lose prop Nicky Smith to an English club and the region’s director of rugby Toby Booth said: “There are going to be some departures for sure.
“Some of those have been forced upon us and some by choice because it’s taken too long.
“I’ve already lost one player, who I won’t name, who would’ve been nice to keep, but they have got an option and they’ve gone elsewhere. That’s an unfortunate casualty of this scenario.”
Wales flanker Ross Moriarty has been offered a move to French club Bayonne from the
“He’s got a decision to make. We want to be in a position to offer him a formal contract, not just a verbal one, but he has to decide what’s best for him,” said head coach Dai Flanagan.
“I’d like to think he’s enjoying it here and he’s been superb for us.
“Missing out for Wales could impact his thoughts, but Ross will harbour thoughts that he should be in the squad. No-one else in Wales does what he does. He’s one of the best ball-carriers in Europe.
“He’s still only 28 and has lots more rugby in him.”