Warren Gatland supports players in pay dispute but confident England clash will go ahead

Wales have lost their first two matches in the Six Nations. Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images

Wales head coach Warren Gatland says he is confident the Six Nations clash with England next week will go ahead despite the threat of a Welsh players' strike over salary cuts.

The build-up to the game has been overshadowed by tension between the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) and the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) over proposed cuts from the 2024/25.

Speaking at a new conference in Cardiff, Gatland said none of his players have indicated they would not be available, although he expressed sympathy for their grievances.

"I'm in complete support of the players and the WRPA, which in my time has been incredibly weak as an organisation," Gatland told reporters. "I've stressed to players they need to be around the table from a consultation point of view.

"They need to be part of conversations going forward. I'm sure the players, like us, will want things solved as quickly as possible. All I can focus on is the game."

Despite supporting his players, Gatland, whose team are bottom of the table after heavy defeats by Ireland and Scotland, does not agree with a strike.

"No. I completely support the stance they're taking in wanting to get resolution, but there's a lot more things at stake in terms of ensuring that fixture does take place," he said.

"But I'm in support of the players and the things they're trying to do. My role is to just prepare the team well."

The Welsh Rugby Union met with senior members of the national team squad on Wednesday to outline the new terms and what effect it will have on players at the four regional franchises, Cardiff Rugby, Scarlets, Dragons and Ospreys.

"The new agreement offers a complete funding package to the professional game in Wales, but it does come with financial limitations which will directly affect salary negotiations," PRB chair Malcolm Wall said on Wednesday.

The Professional Rugby Board said there is no room for manoeuvre over budgets but Gatland refuted its claim that the WRU and clubs have been over-paying players.

"You can't blame the players for being offered the money they're on," Gatland said. "If someone offers you £30/40k more, how can you blame the players for accepting contracts.

"It's a little bit disingenuous to say players are being paid too much. I don't see how it's a fault of theirs."

Wales lock and former captain Alun Wyn Jones said players have been left with little choice.

"It's come to a head because it was supposed to be sorted 18 months ago," the 37-year-old said.

"We appreciate there's a strain everywhere, but the players haven't had a voice and decisions have been unilaterally made."