Gethin Jenkins to leave Cardiff Blues and join Toulon

Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins is set to join the Wales player exodus to France by signing for Toulon.

The news comes in the wake of Blues chairman Peter Thomas warning the regions' Wales players will no longer be paid while on international duty.

Jenkins would join the likes of Mike Phillips, James Hook, Lee Byrne, Luke Charteris and Aled Brew in France.

"I definitely will not be with the Blues next season, and yes, I am going to France," he told WalesOnline. 

"I was offered a deal by the Blues, but that was after talks were put off about an extension on several occasions.

"In the end they said they couldn't pay me while I was fulfilling international commitments and so I felt I had no choice.

"I had to think about my future, just like any player or anyone in any walk of life would do.

"I won't leave with any bitterness and will give the Blues everything between now and the end of this season, just the same as I have always done.

"But after that, it will be time for me to have a fresh start and a new challenge."

Jenkins will join former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and versatile Australian back Matt Giteau among the big names in the expensively assembled Toulon squad.

Wales and British and Irish Lions star Jenkins' contract with the Blues expires at the end of a season that is likely to signal the end of Martyn Williams's Blues career.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has fears Test hooker Huw Bennett will also be among those to make the move to France.

Jenkins, who has been capped by Wales 84 times, will compete with another fellow British and Irish Lion, Andrew Sheridan of England, for the loose-head prop spot at Toulon following the Englishman's recent decision to join the French Top 14 side from Sale.

Wales' four regions - the Ospreys, Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons and Scarlets - are operating a £3.5m salary cap from next season.

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It does hinder your preparation... it's definitely going to be a challenge with players playing in France and potentially England, something we're going to have to cope with

Warren Gatland Wales coach

Irish wing Tommy Bowe is poised to return Ulster from the Ospreys and Shane Williams has announced his retirement.

But the Ospreys have held on to Wales tight-head prop Adam Jones for two more seasons.

Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies as admitted his region is "in a battle" to field a competitive squad next season.

Dragons defence coach Robert Appleyard has added his voice to those saying Welsh teams cannot compete financially with their French counterparts - the Dragons will lose lock Charteris and wing Brew at the end of the season.

Likewise, Blues chairman Thomas says more player departures could be on the cards and skipper Paul Tito has predicted a "crash" for the Welsh regions.

Gatland admits seeing an increasing number of his players employed outside Wales could be detrimental to the national team.

He said: "It does hinder your preparation... it's definitely going to be a challenge with players playing in France and potentially England, something we're going to have to cope with.

"But you can understand that the regions are under a huge amount of financial pressure as well."