Warburton could be left without anyone to play for
January 30, 2014
Sam Warburton puts pen to paper at the weekend © Wales Rugby Union
Days after the Welsh Rugby Union unveiled Sam Warburton as its first centrally contracted player, the viability of the deal was thrown into doubt by the regions hinting he might not have a Welsh club to play for next season.
The Warburton deal was the WRU's attempt to stem the exodus of leading players to English and French clubs, but Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), which represents the four regions, last night poured cold water on the situation.
A statement from RRW said: "It is important for the Welsh regions to stress that they have the utmost respect for Sam Warburton as a player, a leader, a young man of great integrity … [but] no agreement to play centrally contracted players in the regions currently exists.
"The regions are concerned about the impact of this action, the confusion it creates within Welsh rugby at this time and how it may unsettle the balance of strong and close-knit team environments at the regions."
The RRW said that while it respected the rights of players to make their own choices, "the introduction of one individual national contract at this particular time, however, leaves the regions bemused and they would question the strategy behind the bizarre action by the WRU given that a final agreement on the future of Welsh rugby has yet to be reached.
Warburton defends central contract
"The regions would ask what kind of message this sends out about Welsh rugby to our colleagues in the game across the world."
With a deadline of Friday for the RRW to reach a deal with the WRU - something that appears unlikely - the latest statement can be seen as muscle flexing on the part of the RRW.
But it does raise the embarrassing possibility that without an agreement between the warring factions the WRU could be faced with having to loan Warburton to a Premiership side to ensure he continues playing top-flight rugby.
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