Cardiff Blues coach Gareth Baber wants WRU player cash boost

Gethin Jenkins
Gethin Jenkins has won 82 Wales caps since his debut in Romania in 2002

Cardiff Blues coach Gareth Baber says the Welsh regions need more money from the Welsh Rugby Union to hold on to star players such as Gethin Jenkins.

The Wales prop is out of contract at the end of the season and is a target for big-spending French clubs.

Newport Gwent Dragon Luke Charteris and Osprey Adam Jones have also been linked with possible moves to France.

"We have to find a way forward to make sure we don't lose our best players," said Baber.

"We are so far down the line that central contracts would be difficult to put in place, but some form of assistance or top up to keep our best players in Wales would certainly be welcomed."

Jenkins, Jones and Charteris' fellow Welsh World Cup stars James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne are already plying their trade in France.

Ospreys coaching director Scott Johnson has also called for top-up money to keep Wales' best players at home.

And former Wales wing Shane Williams believes increasing salary offers would prevent players accepting the temptation on offer in France - or England, where former Ospreys prop Craig Mitchell plays for Exeter.

The funding issue is threatening to undermine Wales coach Warren Gatland's desire to have his front-line players available for all training and playing commitments.

Non-Welsh clubs are under no obligation to release players to Wales for their forthcoming pre-2012 Six Nations training camp in Poland.

That prompted Gatland to declare non-Welsh based players' chances of Test squad selection are under threat.

But if British and Irish Lions props Jenkins and Jones are in France ahead of the 2013 tournament along with Charteris, Hook, Byrne and Phillips, Gatland may be forced into a rethink.

Charteris has been linked with Perpignan, the same club reportedly targeting Jenkins after already signing Hook.

Baber said: "I'd be lying if I said it was easy making sure players stay here [the Blues].

"They are young men and they want to set themselves up for life, the money being bandied around is a massive attraction and they would be playing for big, successful European clubs.

"The way things are economically does not make it any easier.

"We want to keep Gethin, he is from the region, he is a British Lion, he is one of the best props in the world and is one of the best defensive players I have met.

"If we can find a way to create a package for him to stay with us it will benefit the Blues moving forward."

Each region currently receives £6million a year as part of the Participation Agreement between them and the WRU, but leading French clubs such as Toulouse, Racing Metro, Clermont Auvergne, Perpignan and Toulon have greater resources.

Baber added: "When you are trying to build a squad and you have eight players going away on international duty, they tend to be your top earners and you have to replace them within the squad.

"You have to increase the size of your squad and pay other players to play games in the RaboDirect Pro12 while they are away, and that is where the pressure comes from.

"Trying to compete with clubs in France, it is not possible to pay those players and run the rest of squad. It becomes nonsensical because you might as well not have them [the internationals] and have the money to pay other players. You may lose them but at least you would still have a squad."