Rugby Union

WRU and Welsh regions reach £60m agreement

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The Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales have finally reached an agreement worth over £60m ending a two-year long dispute, reports BBC Sport.

The WRU and four regions - comprised of Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - had been at loggerheads over central contracts and releasing players for international matches.

But the deal reached between the two parties, which runs until 2020, now means that a minimum of six top Welsh stars will be on dual WRU-regions contracts.

The agreement also has an emphasis on keeping Wales' top talent playing for Welsh clubs after a recent exodus of the country's best players to England and France.

Future secured

With Wales preparing for a busy autumn period - where they will face the giants of the Southern Hemisphere including South Africa, New Zealand and Australia - the future of the national team appears to have been secured.

Under the agreement, head coach Warren Gatland won't be able to select players from abroad unless he makes an exception, meaning the emphasis is on developing home-grown talent.

Each of the regions will also only be able to sign six non-Welsh players to their Pro12 squads.

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Warburton's return

The agreement also could see the swift return to action of Sam Warburton, who could have been left without a club as a result of the dispute.

Before now, the regions were legally unable to select players on a central contract such as Warburton, but the flanker has been named in the Cardiff Blues squad for Friday's friendly with Aviva Premiership club Leicester Tigers.

The dispute also affected fellow Lions player Adam Jones, who was expected to join Ospreys but he instead opted for a surprise switch to the Blues after claiming the disagreement had left him out of pocket.

Dual contracts

Whilst Warburton will remain an employee of the WRU, Gatland himself now has the power to offer dual contracts, with 60% of the funding provided by the WRU and the other 40% by the regions.

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said in a statement: "The new contracts will help us keep more of our best players in Wales and will help stem the flow abroad of the talent we develop here."

Lewis' sentiments were echoed by RRW chairman Nigel Short, who feels that the deal is the right one but that there is still work to be done.

"With greater clarity and the security of a new agreement, the regions can forward plan with more focus, working hard to ensure their independent businesses remain competitive," he said.

"Things will not change overnight - but securing our new agreement in partnership is a positive forward step."

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Rugby Union
Sam Warburton
Wales Rugby

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