Gatland confident Wales-England clash will go ahead despite strike threat
Warren Gatland says he is confident that Wales’ Guinness Six Nations clash against England will go ahead.
A threat of strike action by Wales players hangs over the showpiece fixture, which is due to take place in Cardiff next Saturday.
A new six-year financial agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union and Wales’ four professional regions – Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets – has not yet been signed off in writing after months of discussion.
The regions are braced for financial cuts, but no playing budgets have been finalised for next season, so no contracts can be offered in writing.
Talks were continuing over the weekend in an attempt to try and resolve the situation, with a deadline of Wednesday understood to have been set by the players.
The players want representation at Professional Rugby Board meetings, removal of the contentious 60-cap selection rule in Wales whereby a player plying his trade outside the country cannot be picked unless he has made at least that number of Test appearances, and concern about contracts that have fixed-variable elements accounting for 20 per cent of salaries.
“I expect the game is going to be played. I have seen these sort of things happen in the past and I am confident the game will go ahead,” Wales head coach Gatland said.
“The boys have been great in training. I have just got to put all that sort of stuff aside and make sure that we focus on the game.
“It hasn’t been the easiest few weeks, but sometimes that focuses the mind and gives you the resolve to focus on the job at hand, and that is preparing the team the best way we possibly can as a group as coaches for next week.”
Fit for purpose
On the 60-cap rule, Gatland added: “I am not sure it is fit for purpose at the moment. There is an opportunity under the current situation to say let’s potentially get rid of it.
“That needs to be negotiated for post-World Cup if it is beneficial, going forward. Get in a room and discuss it, but not for months and months.
“What is the best thing? I can see it working for four regions, but I can’t see it working if we end up with three or two regions because it doesn’t make sense to me to not have players potentially outside of Wales available.”
Players throughout the professional game in Wales are exasperated at the current situation. It is thought that between 70 and 100 of them will be out of contract in just a few months’ time.
“I am not sure what the actual issues are about why things haven’t moved a lot quicker,” Gatland said.
“I come from a country (New Zealand) that when you are in a bit of a crisis, you get everyone in a room and you sort it out within 24 hours.
“The strength of New Zealand rugby has always been the ability to change, and change incredibly quickly. Probably the hamstring of Welsh rugby is that change is like a slow train trying to go somewhere.
“Everyone within the game needs to take responsibility, not just the union (WRU).
“Everyone has got to take a role, whether it is the national team, the regions, the clubs. We have got to take away our parochialism and take away the self-interest. Let’s make the best decisions for the game.”
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