Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Could Welsh rugby organise a piss-up in a brewery?

The Guardian reports that Wales wonder coach Warren Gatland is questionning his position. The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and Gatland want the regions to release their international players thirteen days ahead of the opening Autumn fixture against South Africa. They argue that this is in line with the existing participation agreement between the WRU and the regions, signed in 2004.

However the regions are refusing and claim that Gatland did not approach the regions with his requirements for the whole year as the agreement requires. Asking for players to be released at this stage in the season is not allowed for in the agreement. Such a move would also leave the regions' squads depleted for the final group round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup. The resulting stand-off has led to the WRU asking the International Rugby Board for a ruling to resolve the matter.

In the meantime the regions have formed a group - Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) - that will speak with a united voice when dealing with the union. Former WRU Chief Executive and author of the 2004 agreement David Moffett has been recruited to head RRW and says that the regions want a new participation agreement, presumably along the lines of that negotiated in England earlier this year. That left the clubs in a much stronger position than before, receiving healthy sums for releasing international players and bypassing the union when striking sponsorship and television deals.

Wales's previous Grand Slam-winning coach Mike Ruddock prophesised back in March that the only thing that could stop Wales from conquering the world was internal discontent. Ruddock lost out in a power game with the WRU and Welsh rugby was in the doldrums for more than a year. Gatland has the WRU under control but the creation of RRW means that the regions could well prove to be his bete noire.

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