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Welsh Rugby
Lewis: 'Gatland's law' will have to wait
ESPN Staff
September 10, 2013
The Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff Blues face a battle to retain Leigh Halfpenny's services © Getty Images

Welsh Rugby Union CEO Roger Lewis has admitted Wales will continue to pick players based overseas until the regions have the financial muscle to keep their top stars in the country.

Wales are currently battling to keep a number of their premier players in the regional system amid reported interest from clubs in the Top 14. The French teams have traditionally been able to offer the country's top players more lucrative contracts and the lure of the euro has seen the likes of Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate, Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne and James Hook cross the Channel to the Top 14.

Roberts and Lydiate are expected to feature prominently for Wales in the forthcoming November Tests but it is unlikely England will turn to any of the players playing in France due to their self-imposed condition which sees Stuart Lancaster only picking those turning out abroad in exceptional circumstances.

Wales boss Warren Gatland outlined in 2008 that he wanted to give those still playing for the regions preferential treatment - a view now referred to as 'Gatland's Law' - but due to the financial limitations of the regional system, this has not yet been implemented. And Lewis predicts it will be a while before Wales can be in this position.

"There are no simple solutions, and if we were to go down that particular track we must make sure we have got everything in proper order," Lewis told Wales Online. "What I mean by that is you have to make sure the regions are able to retain players.

"That means not only creating the rugby environment but also creating the financial environment. If the regions are able to create that environment, yes, that's when you are able to start discussing if you don't play your rugby in Wales, then you don't play for Wales. But the regions have got to be able to secure those players in the first place."

Wales have a number of their top stars in the last year of their contract with Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Adam Jones and Alun-Wyn Jones already reportedly on the radar of a number of France's top clubs. Lewis admits the regions will struggle to keep their top players if money talks when it comes to contract discussions.

"Let's not make any bones about that," Lewis added. "Some of the monies being offered by the French clubs nobody can compete with. Jonny Sexton wanted to stay in Ireland and the Irish Rugby Union wanted to keep him, but they couldn't compete with it.

"And some of the numbers being bandied about for some of the Welsh players are simply not achievable in Wales. So what we have got to do, and this is really the important point, is make sure the environment, the complete package that exists in Wales for all our players, is so compelling that they will not leave."

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