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Jamie Roberts to quit Blues for Racing Metro
ESPN Staff
November 8, 2012
Jamie Roberts dives into score for Wales, Wales v Italy, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, March 10, 2012
Jamie Roberts will join the growing number of Wales internationals playing in France next season © Getty Images

Cardiff Blues have confirmed that Wales international Jamie Roberts will leave the region at the end of the season with French giants Racing Metro poised to confirm his signing.

Roberts, who turned 26 today, has put an end to long-running speculation regarding his playing future by turning down a new and improved contract from the Blues and as a result is set to join a growing number of Wales internationals including prop Gethin Jenkins, scrum-half Mike Phillips, lock Luke Charteris and playmaker James Hooker in plying his trade in France's Top 14 next season.

It is a significant blow for the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) who have stressed their desire to keep their leading players in Wales and therefore control their availability for international duty. Caretaker coach Rob Howley revealed earlier this week that the selection of Wales-based scrum-half Tavis Knoyle ahead of No.9 rival Phillips was partly due to his availability.

The Welsh regions - Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons - are currently in discussion with the WRU in the hope of finding an answer to the player drain with a disappointed Blues chief executive Richard Holland stressing the long-held view that they do not have the financial muscle to compete with their Top 14 rivals.

"The offer that we made to Jamie was an extremely attractive one and would have seen him become certainly the highest paid player in the Blues squad, and arguably in the UK," said Holland. "As a business we simply don't have the resource to compete with the offers that Jamie has received.

"Naturally we are disappointed that Jamie has decided to leave the region but we wish him the best of luck with his career. Given news of Jamie's departure we will begin the search to find a suitable marquee player who will be eligible to play for us throughout the entire season."

Blues chairman Peter Thomas has demanded the WRU act to prevent more of Wales' leading players being lured overseas with Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate and Blues winger Alex Cuthbert also reportedly targets for French clubs.

"We have invested a lot of time, money and effort developing Jamie as a rugby player from an early age after identifying him as a star of the future.

"We have stuck by him through thick and thin and supported him during last season when he only completed two matches for the Blues because of his knee injury and international duties, playing 15 matches for Wales.

"It is impossible for the Welsh regions to compete with the kind of money that is on offer from other clubs in other countries. The time has come that the Welsh benefactors should not be responsible for funding the professional game."

"The chairman of the regions can guide companies but if we want to keep Jamie Roberts and other international players in Wales then the governing body has to intervene.

"The player drain out of Wales, which has a negative impact on the Welsh regions and the national team, will only continue without increased funding from the governing body.

"As an example with our recent game against Leinster, the IRFU pay for fourteen of their players and additionally fund the province for the remaining players in excess of 4 million euros. Compared to the cost of the Cardiff Blues squad that's almost double.

"You'll never win the Heineken Cup with that margin to compete with. The governing body has to take far more responsibility."

Roberts, who is set to complete his medical studies during next year's Six Nations, missed Wales' recent tour of Australia after undergoing a knee reconstruction but he will return to the Test match stage on Saturday when his side tackle Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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