Anglo-Welsh League Fan Club Has A New Member . . . Warren Gatland

Wales head coach Warren Gatland during the 2024 Guinness Six Nations Squad Announcement at the Vale Resort, Hensol. Picture date: Tuesday January 16, 2024. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Anglo-Welsh League Fan Club Has A New Member . . . Warren Gatland

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By Paul Jones

Warren Gatland had joined the growing band of voices calling for an Anglo-Welsh League.

The Wales head coach believes the RFU and the WRU need to come together to alliance to re-establish the old traditional rivalries that players and fans have always revelled.

Cardiff Rugby have just enjoyed two full houses for their Investec Champions Cup games against Bath and Harlequins at the Arms Park and Gatland believes that shows the potential of a more structured approach from the two arch-rival nations.

“I’ve always said from a Welsh perspective we should always have an Anglo/Welsh competition on the table. For me that is not about the present, that is about history,” said Gatland.

“It’s the history of those clubs like Newport, Cardiff or whoever, playing teams that are pretty close to the border in terms of Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, and now Exeter now. That goes back a long time to those traditional rivalries.

“That’s something that Wales and England, as unions, should potentially have going forward. I know the impact it might have on other competitions, but if we are just looking after ourselves, and what would benefit Welsh rugby, an Anglo/Welsh league could potentially be successful for England and Wales.”

Former Wales and British & Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton, now a director at Cardiff Rugby, has been a strong advocate of an Anglo/Welsh League, although any move to create a new competition could be a legal minefield to negotiate.

While the Gallagher Premiership is a one-nation, stand-alone event, the four Welsh regions currently play in the United Rugby Championship, which boasts teams from five countries. Opting out of that wouldn’t be easy and then there is the question of how it would affect qualification for European competition.

On top of that, the four Welsh regions have also benefitted from external investment from CVC as part of the URC tournament.

A more likely scenario is that CVC move forward on brokering a deal to bring the Premiership and URC together to create one super league.

Gatland also wants a review of the 25-cap law that restricts those players with than number of caps representing Wales if they don’t play at one of the four Welsh regions. Not only has Gatland’s Six Nations Squad been shorn of Louis Rees-Zammit, who is off to try his luck at American Football, but is also missing Exeter Chiefs centre Joe Hawkins, Gloucester centre Max Llewellyn, Saracens scrum half Aled Davies and Harlequins outside half Jarrod Evans.

None of them have reached the necessary cap threshold and all of them would have come under consideration for selection had they achieved 25 appearances.

“The problem with the 25 cap law at the moment is that there’s only one team who gets penalised. We could potentially look to scrap it,” added Gatland.

“It’s always an ongoing discussion. The feedback I’m getting from some of the players is they are looking to play for teams who have a chance of being successful.

“They’re excited about being able to play in front of full houses as well, and the challenges of being well-coached by well-resourced teams. Those are the things the players look at.

“The other thing is about having quality facilities at which to train. We’ve got to work together with the regions to make sure all those things are in place.

“As a coach, if I was looking at myself and the regions, I would make sure the environment is 100% right. I’d want the right facilities, the best coaches I can get my hands on, the best support staff, and the best facilities.

“Then you try to build a squad around that. We’ve got to work as hard as we can to ensure we got those things right.”

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