WRU ponders central contract offers amid row with regions

Wales captain Sam Warburton
Wales captain Sam Warburton

The Welsh Rugby Union is considering offering to centrally contract six of the country's top stars if they cannot agree deals to stay with their regions.

The idea has been mooted amid on-going uncertainty caused by rows over regions' funding, a player exodus and cross-border competitions.

Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny are among the six.

Wales' four regions have previously rejected the central contracts concept.

The WRU has given Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons until today (20 December) to offer leading players contracts.

If the regions fail to do so, the WRU is set to approach those players with a view to signing them up.

With a host of Wales and Lions stars either playing in England or France - or set to do so for 2014 - the WRU fears more could follow.

Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland is the latest player to be linked with a move away from Wales, in his case to Leicester.

Priestland's Scarlets team-mate, centre, Scott Williams, Ospreys forward duo Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones are among those out of contract at the end of the 2013-14 season, as are Blues flanker Warburton and full-back team-mate Halfpenny.

Scarlets allowed star wing George North to controversially join Northampton ahead of the current campaign, ending his contract in west Wales a year early.

And Ospreys have agreed to Richard Hibbard ending his deal 12 months before it expires - he joins Gloucester for next season.

The WRU has given RRW's members until 31 December, 2013 to sign a fresh Participation Agreement.

The agreement places obligations on both sides, for example, tying the regions into playing in the Pro12 and Heineken Cup and making players available for international matches, while setting out the funding coming from the WRU for the next five years.

Top Stories