Welsh Rugby
WRU refuse to negotiate on player-release
ESPNscrum Staff
January 2, 2011
Saracens replacement Gavin Henson makes a dash for the line, Saracens v London Wasps, Aviva Premiership, Wembley, London, England, December 26, 2010
Gavin Henson made his return to rugby after 21 months away for Saracens on Boxing Day © PA Photos

Wales' preparations for the World Cup next autumn remains in limbo after the Welsh Rugby Union again refused to negotiate with Premier Rugby over the release of Welsh players based in England.

The WRU are prepared to talk with their counterparts in England, the Rugby Football Union, but they will not speak with the PRL, who represent the Aviva Premiership clubs. Gavin Henson is among a number of players contracted with English clubs and his chief executive at Saracens, Edward Griffiths, has suggested that a deal might be struck between the WRU and the PRL.

But in response to Griffiths' suggestion a WRU spokesman told the Western Mail: "Our position hasn't changed on this matter. If Warren [Gatland] has spoken to people at Saracens then it is to see how Gavin is faring on his return to rugby. But we will not discuss player-release issues with PRL. We will only do that with the RFU."

Along with Henson, Andy Powell (London Wasps), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks) and Nicky Robinson (Gloucester) are also affected by the stand-off between the WRU and PRL.

The WRU are eager to secure greater access to players for international training, including in the run up to the World Cup next autumn. Henson's contract expires in the summer but if he signs a new contract with the English club his release for international duty, along with other Welsh players based in England, could be restricted.

The Saracens chief executive had said: "I have spoken to Warren Gatland and we are keen for Gavin to play for Wales and for him to fulfil his potential as a rugby player. From Saracens' point of view we are eager that our players play international rugby.

"We don't want to hold any player back and have no self-interest in that regard and our interest is perfectly aligned with our players. Players want to play for their countries, which is perfectly natural, and we are happy to do everything we can to make that happen."

The WRU struck a deal with Regional Rugby Wales, who represent the four Welsh regions, in 2009 for greater access to Welsh internationals playing in Wales. And in England the RFU agreed a similar deal with the PRL. But the Welsh players based in England fall outside both of those agreements and the Premier Rugby are refusing to release players for World Cup duty before the August 4 with Wales' first build-up game scheduled for August 6 against England.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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