ESPN SCRUM

/ Wales

/ Features

John Taylor

John Taylor John Taylor RSS FeedFeeds

John Taylor won his first cap for Wales at the age of 21 and played 26 Tests during the golden era of Welsh rugby. He also toured with the Lions twice, in 1968 and again in 1971, when he played in all four Tests as they beat the All Blacks to record the Lions' only series victory in New Zealand. He retired from playing in 1978 and began a successful career in broadcasting and journalism. He has covered the last eight Lions tours and has been a regular contributor to ESPNscrum since 1999.

Wales
Wales' Treaty of Versailles
John Taylor
August 29, 2014
Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis, Wales press conference, Grand Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, October 17, 2011
Roger Lewis has to win back the trust of the regions, according to John Taylor © Getty Images
Enlarge

The signing of a new Rugby Services Agreement between the Welsh Regions and the Welsh Rugby Union sounds like the sort of mundane, run-of-the-mill announcement that happens periodically and almost automatically in sport but after the turmoil over the past year this is more akin to the Treaty of Versailles.

Sense has prevailed - it had to eventually - and the two sides have come to a workable agreement but it has been a long, bitter and difficult process and there are still open wounds, let alone scars. Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises it is almost certainly not the final solution. One regional board member described it as "a not unreasonable framework" adding that, "you'd have to go nuclear if not agreeing this and only one region wanted to do that."

Basically, the regions have secured a much better deal. With all things included they are looking at £10.8 million a year instead of £6.7 million which gives them a semblance of financial security and the chance to build their businesses with a six year 'guarantee' of the structure. Up to 10 dual-contracts can now be signed and implemented (Sam Warburton will actually be able to play - hoorah!) with 60% of the players' wages being paid for by the WRU.

The official announcement notes the length of time it has taken to put the agreement together and puts it down to the, "complicated structure and radical nature of the deal." In reality it was because of the total lack of trust between the two sides. The amount of detail is extraordinary because every possible scenario had to be addressed and the document runs to something like 200 pages with appendices on top of that.

It was also thought necessary to make Sir Wyn Williams, a High Court Judge, chairman of the Professional Regional Game Board which will be the vehicle for "monitoring and managing" the agreement. He has also been hugely instrumental in shaping the legal commitments needed to put it together.

Perhaps the most important quote in the announcement is from WRU CEO, Roger Lewis, when he says: "The regions are a vitally important component of the structure of Welsh rugby and they have to be able to thrive and develop for the game in Wales to remain successful." Most people involved in running those regions still need convincing he really means that and who can blame them? It is not very long ago, when he was trying to wield the big stick, that he was threatening to disband the present regions and form new ones. He still has a massive task on his hands to win back trust and confidence - some believe it is impossible.

 
"Limiting the number of overseas players to six is also a positive step. Why should the WRU contribute towards players who will be of no value to them?"
 

Much has also been made of reinstating 'Gatland's Law' which states that only those playing in Wales will be considered for selection for the national team. The extra money available for central contracts will undoubtedly make this more feasible and everybody accepts that it is vital to have the top players plying their trade on home soil to provide role models for youngsters taking up the game but it does not entirely solve the problem.

The French clubs have so much money they will still be able to offer much more, (double the £350,000 Sam Warburton should now be earning, for example) and it is interesting that Australia and New Zealand are both modifying their rules relating to selection criteria to make sure their top players are available. The concept of a player making a mid-career move to secure his future, preferably for just a couple of years between World Cups seems to be gaining and the priority must always be fielding the strongest XV possible because international success is the biggest boost to numbers taking up the game.

Limiting the number of overseas players to six is also a positive step. Why should the WRU contribute towards players who will be of no value to them? The RFU do the same with their clubs by imposing a quota of 15 England qualified players in every match-day squad.

In all the statements there is, sadly, no mention of changing the structure of the WRU itself. All the pledges at the fractious EGM were geared to listening to the member clubs who actually own the Union but if the regions really are a "vitally important component" they should surely be entitled to direct representation at board level.

Gerald Davies announced he would not be standing for re-election as one of the two 'Nationally Appointed' members of the Executive Board in the wake of that EGM. Barring a totally unforeseeable political revolt, David Pickering, the current chairman will continue as one of them and Gareth Davies, currently CEO of Newport Gwent Dragons, is one of several candidates for the vacant slot.

If he were to be elected it would provide a much needed voice for the regions but that appears unlikely precisely because of that association even though, in terms of experience and age he would be an excellent choice. It would only be a temporary solution but it would buy some time.

The future of the regions is secure, for now © Getty Images
Enlarge
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
John Taylor is a former Wales international who toured with the British & Irish Lions in 1968 and 1971. Since retiring he has worked in the media and has covered the last eight Lions tours as a commentator or journalist

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Latest
  • Most Viewed
  • News
  • Features
  • Rugby

    Blues can still make Super finals: Kirwan

    A believer in sporting miracles, Sir John Kirwan hasn't given up on his beleaguered Blues making the Super Rugby finals despite their none-from-six start to the season

  • Boxing

    Brook makes perfect comeback on return from stabbing

    Six months after being victim of a machete attack that left him fearing for his life, Kell Brook dished out a vicious attack of his own in his a first world title defence

  • Tennis

    Heather Watson flounders at Miami Open wash-out

    Heather Watson's challenge at the Miami Open ended in the second round as Angelique Kerber won their rain-affected clash which spanned two days

  • Rugby

    Handre Pollard kicks Bulls into seventh place

    Bulls five-eighth Handre Pollard became the first Super Rugby player past the 100-point mark this season as his team defeated the Crusaders 31-19 in Pretoria

  • Rugby

    Disallowed tries hurt Force in loss

    Two disallowed tries ensured the Western Force ended their South African tour winless with the Sharks securing a 15-9 Super Rugby victory at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday

  • Football

    A Klose call

    Miroslav Klose scored goals in the World Cup final tournaments of 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Has anyone else scored World Cup goals 12 years apart?

  • Formula 1

    F1 cost cutting: Not putting money where the mouth is

    Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...

  • Formula One

    Tough at the top

    Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?

  • Rugby

    Unsavoury sledging did not end with Potgieter

    Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports

  • Rugby

    Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 7

    Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks

  • News
  • Features

Sponsored Links

Make Huge Income from your Home
Download your Free Guide And Learn How To Increase Your Monthly Income