George North: Welsh regions respond in 'transfer' row

Wales' rugby regions have hit back at the Welsh Rugby Union over their row about the future of the game.

The WRU claimed the Scarlets began talks to sell star wing George North before informing the player.

The Blues, Ospreys and Dragons joined the Scarlets in being "bitterly disappointed" at the WRU's statement. 

North's Scarlets bosses also responded, saying they were "astonished" at the WRU's decision to go public over the player's possible move.

A Scarlets statement  read: "The Scarlets are... astonished and disappointed that the governing body of Welsh rugby has chosen to speak about an individual player from within our region publicly in this fashion.

George North

Scarlets and Wales wing George North

"We must therefore clarify, that at no time has the WRU made any proposal to us to help retain any player international or otherwise within our region.

"Any contract discussions involving George North have only taken place within the last two months, including the Scarlets' offer of a three-year contract extension that was the very best offer that the club could make."

The regions also promise to "consider very seriously" the union's statement before issuing a "full and united response".

The WRU statement came in the wake of Regional Rugby Wales chairman Stuart Gallacher revealing the regions have held exploratory talks aimed at forming a fresh Anglo-Welsh competition.

Gallacher, who represents the Scarlets, Ospreys, Blues and Dragons' umbrella body Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), admitted on BBC Sport Wales' The Back Page programme that "there are massive hurdles to climb" to achieve that aim.

Now, as North ponders a possible move to Aviva Premiership side Northampton, RRW has responded to the WRU.

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There are a number of significant comments made within the WRU statement, that the four regions will now need to consider very seriously

Regional Rugby Wales statement

The RRW statement read: "The four Welsh regions are united in expressing how staggered and bitterly disappointed they all are with the nature, intent and content of the public statement made by the WRU... on a number of issues affecting Welsh rugby.

"As the governing body that should lead and set the standards and platform for the profile of the game in Wales, the regions are surprised at the WRU's seemingly defensive reaction to some of the media reporting, particularly given the success of yesterday's [Saturday, 30 March, 2013] Welsh derby double-header.

"As a celebration of regional rugby that attracted close to 37,000 supporters of our game, it was a clear example of the benefits of a partnership approach between the four regions to create fresh opportunities to promote the regional game in Wales and enjoyed by both regional players and spectators.

"There are a number of significant comments made within the WRU statement, that the four regions will now need to consider very seriously and with the appropriate amount of time and discussion before making a full and united response."

The RRW says the WRU is responsible for the failure to establish a functioning Professional Regional Game Board (PRGB).

The statement added: "The PRGB was proposed to ensure that Welsh rugby had a joint collaborative body, with an independent chairman, with the remit and authority to find solutions for some of the issues affecting Welsh rugby.

"Had the PRGB been implemented as originally agreed by the WRU, it would be addressing the exact issues that it has now raised in its statement including the important objective of how best to retain Welsh players like George North.

Martyn Williams sympathises with regions

"The four regions and WRU signed and agreed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2012 that outlined the creation of the PRGB.

"On the basis of this agreement, the PRGB met once on 17 December, 2012.

"The regions have not changed or altered in any way their interpretation, understanding, intent or commitment to the agreements reached since the first proposals were made in May, 2012.

"The only queries raised subsequently, which have affected the establishment of the PRGB and the memorandum of understand signed by all five parties, have been made by the WRU, which has in turn delayed the process."

In November, 2012 accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) produced a critical report on the regions' finances and management up to April, 2012.

RRW said: "The four Welsh regions have been committed and open in providing full and detailed information for the PwC report and its recommendations and have been consistent in their aims to work in partnership for successful establishment of the PRGB."