Gatland wants regions' Euro success to keep players in Wales

WARREN GATLAND INTERVIEW on Radio Wales Sport

  • Channel: BBC Radio Wales
  • Date: Monday, 19 August
  • Time: 19:00-21:00 BST

Coach Warren Gatland says Wales' rugby regions need European success to help persuade star players to stay.

He has returned from British and Irish Lions tour success to his Wales job as Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts begin their Racing Metro stints in France.

Mike Phillips was already at Bayonne and fears exist that more of Wales' 2013 Lions could leave Welsh regions.

"We've got to have teams that are strong enough at the highest level," Gatland told Radio Wales Sport.

Sixteen Welsh players were named in Gatland's tour party and 10 of them started the final, decisive Test in which Gatland's Lions beat Australia 41-16.

In addition, Wales had a tour captain in Sam Warburton while back-row colleague Justin Tipuric and Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert also enjoyed Test action.

One or two of the players may have left because... they wanted to go and play in teams that they felt had a chance of doing well in Europe

Warren Gatland Wales coach

Of Wales' 2013 Lions contingent, two have signed recent deals that keep them in Wales beyond the end of this season - Newport Gwent Dragons' 22-year-old number eight Toby Faletau and Cuthbert, 23.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny and Warburton are out of contract with the Blues at the end of this season.

Ospreys forwards Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans' contacts also expire at the 2013-14 season's end, while hooker Richard Hibbard has two seasons of his deal left.

The Ospreys have acknowledged they face a challenge to keep their remaining Lions.

Wing George North left the Scarlets for Northampton ahead of the Lions tour, although the west Wales side hope to secure Lions centre Jonathan Davies' long-term future.

But as flanker Lydiate and centre Roberts join James Hook and Luke Charteris (Perpignan) and Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne) among Welsh rugby's French exiles, Gatland highlighted potential European success as an additional incentive to high salaries for players.

No Welsh team has won the Heineken Cup, with the nation's only European title taken by Cardiff Blues who won the 2010 Amlin Challenge Cup by beating Toulon.

Gatland says the Welsh Rugby Union and regions face the challenge of creating "environments that... they're enjoying, but also are successful".

The New Zealander added: "I think one or two of the players may have left because, not just for the financial rewards, but they wanted to go and play in teams that they felt had a chance of doing well in Europe as well.

"And I think for some of them that's part of the attraction too.

"We need to make sure that we all work together and keep those players hopefully in Wales.

"In doing that we've got to create environments… we've got to have teams that are strong enough at the highest level and if we do that then hopefully we can look after those players, because then we're going to have a greater chance of retaining their services in Wales."

However, Gatland accepts it can be "hard" for players to reject the significantly higher salaries on offer in France and England, particularly if their careers are drawing to an end.

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