Ex-Wales fly-half Gareth Davies wants Irish contract model

Former Cardiff chief Gareth Davies believes Wales should mirror Ireland and centrally contract their Welsh internationals to keep them in Wales.

The call comes after Welsh Rugby Union group chief executive Roger Lewis revealed Wales' four regions had turned down an offer on central contracts.

The WRU's aim is to keep Wales' top players in the Welsh regions.

"Ireland has four regions and they have won the Heineken Cup five times out of the last seven years," said Davies.

"If you look at similar countries round the world the closest one to us [Wales] would probably be Ireland.

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Gareth Davies

I know our history in Wales is firmly focused around club rugby, but that has disappeared now

Gareth Davies

"It certainly seems to have worked there for their regional sides.

"I know our history in Wales is firmly focused around club rugby, but that has disappeared now.

"It [central contracts] has obviously been successful in Australia/New Zealand, although there are historical reasons why perhaps the Welsh regions are keen to retain their independence."

Leinster have won the last two Heineken Cups, and an Irish province has conquered Europe in four of the last five seasons.

The debate was taken on by Lewis in an open letter,  where he said an offer of £6.2m had been put on the table.

Both the WRU and the regions are fearful of losing more top-class players to clubs outside Wales, with the debate intensifying after the Union's announcement of a record turnover of £63m in the year to June 2012.

"The recent debate, if you can call it that, about player salaries and soundbite solutions has been untimely, misinformed and damaging," Lewis said in the letter.

Former Ospreys chief executive Mike Cuddy has entered the debate and has called on the WRU to give additional funding to Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons, claiming the national/regional environment and relationship was "not what it should be".

The Blues have also appealed for financial support from the WRU to retain British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts, who has been linked with a big-money move to France.

And the Dragons want more cash to help keep Wales back-row Dan Lydiate.

Davies, a former Cardiff chief executive and Wales fly-half, has called on the WRU and the four regions to get together and sort out a mutually acceptable way forward.

"I think it has almost become inevitable that the debate around central contracts is firmly on the table," he said.

"When we hear the regions calling for more money to be thrown at themselves I think you do pose the question 'is that sensible?' That's not being critical of the regions - it's the fact that the current model is not working.

"I'd have thought getting round the table - the four regions and the Union - is obviously the way ahead.

"A lot of the money that is distributed to the Union is generated by the regions anyway in terms of their involvement in various competitions.

"While they do generate a lot the money themselves, Roger and the Union are probably asking the question 'is this money being managed properly?' And I think that is the important question and how we can move the game forward so the regional product is a successful, viable one.

"The important thing is to get the proper model properly in place and then the appropriate money should follow, not just throwing good money after bad."