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Gatland fires warning to English-based players
ESPN Staff
May 14, 2014
Warren Gatland's frustration is obvious © Getty Images
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Wales coach Warren Gatland has warned that he might consider not selecting England-based players in future after Premiership clubs warned they might not agree to a release for the May 30 Possibles v Probables match.

Hollow threats

  • Warren Gatland's frustration at not knowing exactly who will and who won't be available for his hastily arranged trial match is understandable. But such is the unrelenting and packed rugby schedule, he can hardly expect anything different.

    It seems unlikely that any clubs not involved in the domestic play-offs will refuse such permission, assuming Premiership Rugby itself is also not unreasonable. But for those still fighting for a trophy, a crucial club match has to come before a rather meaningless trial.

    Nor is Gatland in a strong enough position to make any threats. Wales, fighting a bitter internal battle between regions and board, are faced with a continuing player exodus which they can do little to check. Money and prestige talks. They simply have not got the depth or quality to threaten to not select those playing outside Wales.

    And while some will have negotiated release clauses, the assumption is that they will come running when country calls. They will probably do so for major matches. But the trial has all the hallmarks of being little more than a glorified workout and is not an event to start throwing toys out of prams over.
  • Martin Williamson

"It makes it difficult to select them if they're not involved," Gatland said. "Going forward, we might have to review the policy of potentially selecting England-based players if they're not going to be available. It's something we'll look closely at, particularly at the end of the season when we're preparing for tours."

The WRU only announced the game earlier this month, causing a number of Premiership sides to fall back on IRU regulations which only require players to be released in certain periods.

"Players that have gone to France, some of them have negotiated full release and that's helpful," Gatland said. "But at the moment, apart from George North who has got that, it's sometimes difficult with players coming from England."

Although North has a release clause, Northampton were fined £60,000 by Premiership Rugby when he was allowed to play against Australia last November as the match fell outside the IRB window.

North may be involved in the Premiership final the day after the trial match, which would rule him out of the Welsh game.

"We've been in contact with Premier Rugby to say we're going to name the players in the squad," Gatland said. "We're just hoping that common sense prevails and those players that are finished for the season are released.

"I can understand Premier Rugby protecting their competition, but I don't understand when players are finished for the season why they wouldn't be available. I hope there's some goodwill in the game."

Gavin Henson, handed an unlikely international lifeline after a good season at Bath, is one who will be hoping his club - not involved in the end-of-season play-offs - will agree to let him play. "He's just one of 52 players and he's got a chance,"Gatland said. "He's just got to make the most of his opportunity."

Probables Squad:

Forwards: Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Owen Evans (Dragons), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (Captain), Luke Charteris (Perpignan), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Ryan Jones (Bristol), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets), Josh Navidi (Blues), Dan Lydiate (Racing Metro), Taulupe Faletau (Dragons).

Backs: Rhodri Williams (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Sam Davies (Ospreys), Jon Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Gavin Henson (Bath), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton), Hallam Amos (Dragons), Liam Williams (Scarlets).

Possibles Squad:

Forwards: Paul James (Bath), Phil Price (Dragons), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Matthew Rees (Blues), Kristian Dacey (Blues), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Scott Andrews (Blues), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Andrew Coombs (Dragons), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Macauley Cook (Blues), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), James Davies (Scarlets), Dan Baker (Ospreys).

Backs: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), Matthew Morgan (Ospreys), Harry Robinson (Blues), Owen Williams (Leicester), Steven Shingler (Scarlets), Cory Allen (Blues), Jonathan Spratt (Ospreys), Tom Prydie (Dragons), Jordan Williams (Scarlets).

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