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Wales
Warburton signs historic WRU deal
ESPN Staff
January 25, 2014
Warburton signing the deal alongside WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis © Wales Rugby Union
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Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has signed a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

The news is a huge lift for Welsh rugby following the confirmation of Leigh Halfpenny's departure for French giants Toulon - and another coup following Alun-Wyn Jones' decision to stay in Wales with Ospreys. The deal ensures Warburton stays on home soil, where he will be leased back to current side Cardiff Blues for domestic duty outside of international fixtures.

Under the arrangement his salary will be paid by the WRU, who intend that he will be released free of charge for his Cardiff duties.The 25-year-old becomes the first player to sign a contract with the WRU.

It is unclear what the Cardiff's response to this will be, as current regional policy is to not select any player who is centrally contracted.

The news is a relief to the board who had seen similar offers to Leigh Halfpenny and Alun Wyn Jones rebuffed. Others in the frame - such as Adam Jones, Scott Williams and Rhys Priestland - have yet to make a decision.

Roger Lewis, the chief executive of the WRU, said the deal was a landmark moment in the history of Welsh rugby. "This is all about us working together in the best interests of rugby in Wales and I am sure this will be remembered as an important moment for rugby in Wales. What we want is for every young rugby fan in Wales to emulate players like Sam Warburton."

But former WRU chief executive, who has made clear his desire for change, slammed the board's central contracts agenda, calling it "dumb" and adding: "They have gone into competition with the regions for their players. The agents of those players have said: 'That's terrific. Now we'll get more money for our clients'."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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