WRU chairman Gareth Davies backs PRB role in Wales game

Gareth Davies is a former Wales captain who played 21 times for his country between 1978 and 1985
Gareth Davies is a former Wales captain who played 21 times for his country between 1978 and 1985

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) chairman Gareth Davies says the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) is fit for purpose following the failure to agree collective pay cuts with players.

In April, the PRB reached an agreement with the Welsh Rugby Players' Association (WRPA) over a 25% salary reduction that lasted for three months.

More talks to extend that deal failed to bring a collective agreement.

"There have been bumps on the road," said Davies.

"Let's hope we can get over those bumps because I think it's the right model."

The PRB was set up in late 2018 to run the professional game in Wales and represents the WRU and the country's four regions - Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets.

The WRU website says its members share equal responsibility for the professional game and have the power and authority to make dynamic changes wherever necessary.

It has an independent chair in Amanda Blanc and non-executive director Marianne Økland.

Regional representatives include Robert Davies (Ospreys), Alun Jones (Cardiff Blues), Nigel Short (Scarlets) and David Buttress (Dragons), while WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips and finance director Steve Phillips also have voting rights.

Regions will now have to determine their own pay cuts with their squads after talks broke down between the WRU, PRB and WRPA.

"I would like to think it's working," said Davies.

"Without question it's the right model. They have the right strategy and some talented people.

"Maybe the execution of certain things isn't perhaps as I would wish. There's competitive tension because each of the regions wants to win.

"I'd like to think once some of the current issues are sorted, there will be one way ahead.

"We know there's competition and independence, but unless we work together on this collaboration, it is going to be far tougher.

"There will be swings and roundabouts where there could be more players from one region representing Wales and maybe getting more money one year through the distribution model.

"There are some current extreme extraordinary issues we are facing where people have to work for the collective. That's where we're trying to get to."

One of the latest tensions surrounds Dragons signing players such as Jamie Roberts when pay cuts are being implemented across the regional game.

Other regions are also concerned about the funding model of the WRU-owned Dragons but Davies, a former chief executive of the Gwent side, believes it is transparent.

Dragons have learned from failure - Roberts

"All the regions will know what income is going from the WRU into the Dragons because the PRB agrees it, so I'm not quite sure why the negatives," said Davies.

"Also I would have thought the general public want four competitive teams.

"The Dragons haven't had the resource in the past, now they have and that has been agreed by the PRB.

"They have cut their cloth in other areas. They've made some big signings but scaled down elsewhere enabling them to strengthen the squad.

"Let's get on with it and build four sustainable successful teams at regional level."

The WRU bought Dragons in 2017 to help the cash-strapped region survive and want to return it to private ownership.

"That's been the aim since we stepped in, to ensure a fourth region was sustainable," said Davies.

"Without that at the time we would have lost sponsorship. television income and local derbies, the main areas that generate money. Welsh rugby would have suffered.

"There are regular discussions with the Dragons about private ownership but against the backdrop of the uncertainty of the virus, that has stalled.

"Those discussions are ongoing and there are positive signs."