WALES will play England in the Six Nations in Cardiff this Saturday after a deal was reached yesterday afternoon between the players and the WRU to avert threatened strike action.
Professional Rugby Board (PRB) chair Malcolm Wall confirmed agreement had been reached with Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) CEO Gareth Lewis which removes any doubt over player participation in Wales’ third round Guinness Six Nations clash at the Principality Stadium.
The PRB heard requests made by the WRPA to be included in its regular meetings, to agree a reduction to the 60-cap rule which governs international selection and to revise the fixed-and-variable contract offer being made to players as part of the proposed new Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA).
The number of international caps a player will be expected to have won before being free to play outside Wales – and still be available for selection by Wales – will be reduced to 25.
And the new contract offer to be made to players in Wales will now contain the option of a ‘fixed-only’ contract, with this offer running alongside the fixed-variable contract originally on the table as part of the new framework which Wales’ four professional sides will work to.
“We have listened to our players and have been able to resolve the three issues presented, quickly and efficiently,” said Wall.
“We have listened to our players and have been able to resolve the three issues presented, quickly and efficiently.
“Any doubt over Wales’ meeting with England on Saturday has now been removed and the game is definitively on.
“The six-year framework we have agreed has always had the players’ best interests at heart and we have been happy to allay their understandable concerns with the adjustments described.
“Negotiations at PRB will continue in earnest as we seek to sign our new six-year PRA as soon as possible and we continue to be grateful to our professional players for their understanding and patience at this most critical time for the game in Wales.”
Team captain Ken owens said: “We are happy hence why the game is on Saturday. There has been huge frustration over the last number of months and it is disappointing that it got to this stage.
"We felt we had to make a stand, but the conversations that have taken place over the last 10 days or so have shown that some positive resolutions can be found.
"If we can continue to do that in the future, we don't end up in a position like this. It has been a difficult period and it has got to be a long-term solution.
"Welsh rugby can't keep going on this merry-go-round of crisis after crisis, because it is affecting everyone in the game.
"We need to pull together now and find the best way forward, and do it together to put Welsh rugby at the top end of world rugby, and not the laughing stock, which I think we are at the moment."
WRU interim chief executive Walker responded: ”Ken has used that phrase 'laughing stock', I'll let other people decide whether we are a laughing stock.
"It's been an unedifying period for us, there are no two ways about it. It is my job over the next six months to make sure we're not having conversations like this in the future.
"I understand the position the players were in and we at the PRB shouldn't have put them in that position.
"So, once you recognise you put them in a difficult position and they responded the way they responded, you know you've got something wrong. We are going to make sure we don't get into this position again.
"There's a number of things we've got to do to ensure this dialogue continues from here on in and any issues are dealt with swiftly."