Welsh rugby
Warburton faces life without a team
ESPN Staff
July 13, 2014
Sam Warburton is currently the WRU's only centrally-contracted player © Getty Images

The heated row between the regions and the Welsh Board could leave Wales captain Sam Warburton without a team to play for next season.

As the WRU's only centrally-contracted player, Warburton has found himself at the centre of the civil war between the governing body and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), the umbrella organisation for Wales' four PRO12 sides.

A breakdown in talks between the WRU and RRW over the future of elite rugby in Wales means the regions face life without any form of WRU involvement, outside what is required by IRB regulations.

Under the terms of the contract Warburton signed with the WRU in January, the union pays his salary while he plays his regional rugby for Cardiff Blues. But with the new season just seven weeks away, Warburton will not be permitted to play for the region unless a new deal can be reached.

"Sam Warburton will not play for any of the regional teams until an agreement is done and there is no sign of that," a spokesman for RRW told the Rugby Paper.

"We have absolutely no issue with a more effective contractual model as long as it works for both sides but there will be no compromise for some half-baked scheme. The four of us [regions] are bound legally on this issue."

The Aviva Premiership's rule against any of its clubs fielding a player contracted to a national union prevents Warburton from seeking refuge in England, while the stalemate between the WRU and RRW could deny Wales head coach Warren Gatland access to other key players ahead of next year's World Cup.

Under the previous agreement between the union and regions, Wales-based players could be released for international duty 13 days before any fixture. But with that deal now expired - it ended on June 30 - the regions are only obliged to release players five days before any international, the minimum required by the IRB.

And for any match outside an official Test window, such as the clash with South Africa scheduled for November 29, the regions say Gatland will not get their players at all.

RRW praised Gatland for his role in the drawn-out negotiations, but his work stands to count for nothing unless a new deal can be struck. "Before he went back to New Zealand last week, everything had been agreed," Ospreys' investor Rob Davies said. "The next thing we know is that it has been ripped up. We can't go on like this."

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