Chief Executive Nigel Walker

Chief Executive Nigel Walker, WRU Press Conference - Principality Stadium - Monday January 30th. Pic: Getty Images.

Welsh Players Walk Out As “Work To Rule” And Strike Threat Become Real For WRU

By David Williams

The unrest in Welsh rugby continued on Wednesday night as players in the senior men’s squad left a dinner early, held at the Parkgate Hotel in Cardiff, nextdoor to the Principality Stadium, hosted by the Welsh Rugby Union.

It’s understood they considered their action a form of “work to rule” as they contemplate whether or not to take strike action before the Six Nations game against England over delayed contract offers and planned cuts in wages.

All the squad attended the dinner as required and were present for the opening speeches and presentations, but left as soon as they considered their formal role in the evening was over.

The Wales women’s squad also attended, but were not involved in the walkout.

The senior men’s squad players weren’t prepared to stay and eat, and make general small talk, with the sponsors who had been invited by the WRU.

Earlier in the day, the WRU had issued a statement warning that pay cuts were coming for Welsh players and that there would be “no room for manoeuvre” in any negotiations.

The Welsh players have already taken pay cuts of 20 per cent on their current contracts following the Covid lockdowns.

They will hold meetings next week through their representative body, the Welsh Rugby Players Association to decide their next move and whether or not to strike.

The Welsh Rugby Union and the Welsh regions have said there is “no room for manoeuvre” on the budget for player contracts in Wales despite the threat of strike action putting next week’s Six Nations fixture against England in jeopardy.

Nigel Walker, the WRU’s interim chief executive, met with senior Wales players on Wednesday in an attempt to soothe relations after it emerged strike action was being considered over the contract renewals, with a meeting soon to take place between the Welsh Rugby Players Association and players.

Having accepted pay cuts of 20% during the Covid period, players in Wales are now faced with further cuts under the proposed six-year deal between the WRU and the regions. The take-or-leave-it deal which has to be signed by 28 February – three days after the England game – would see lower wages all round and bonuses introduced into contracts for the first time.

However, the Professional Rugby Board, the body which consists of representatives of the four regions plus the WRU, said the new deal was necessary to bring sustainability to the sport.

“The new agreement offers a complete funding package to the professional game in Wales, but it does come with financial limitations which will directly affect salary negotiations,” said the PRB chair, Malcolm Wall, in a statement on Wednesday evening.

“The cold facts are that the WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford, so the new agreement establishes a new framework for contract negotiations.

“There is a stipulation that all current contracts will be honoured, but these businesses must return to a sustainable footing in order for the success we all crave to follow.

“The average salary of a Welsh professional rugby player under the new framework will be around £100k per year.

“We are confident that our salary packages are in line with the UK market. The PRB accepts that some better-funded English and French clubs are paying more, but this is where we must set the mark of sustainability in Wales.”

The PRB’s statement added that there was “no room for manoeuvre when it comes to the overall budget available for player contracts”.

Walker said: “We know we are not in an ideal situation, but it is incredibly important for the whole game in Wales for us to get this next step right.”

Wales Players Are 9/2 To Go On Strike . . . 1/6 To Keep Their Boots On

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