Welsh Rugby
Cardiff Blues warn of potential exodus
ESPN Staff
April 8, 2013
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny with the Six Nations Player of the Championship trophy, WRU Training Centre, Cardiff, Wales, March 22, 2013
Peter Thomas warns that Leigh Halfpenny could be playing his rugby abroad unless some deal is made between the WRU and the regions © Getty Images

Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas has warned that the likes of Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton could be lost to France unless the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the four regions can find some compromise regarding central funding.

The four regions and the WRU are currently involved in a very public war of words sparked by George North's rumoured transfer to the Northampton Saints. The WRU is keen to adopt central contracts as they seek to stem the tide of Wales' best players opting to leave the country in favour of greater riches available in France.

But the Welsh regions have reportedly agreed between them not to pick any player who is centrally contracted. These were meant to be the sort of issues that the previously formed Professional Regional Rugby Game Board (PRGB) would address. But the PRGB - which consists of the four regions, four representatives from the WRU and a chairman - have only met once.

Thomas sees the PRGB as an integral part of their attempts to reinvigorate the Welsh regional game and that they must find some common ground or risk players of the calibre of Halfpenny, Warburton and Bradley Davies moving abroad.

"The PRGB must find a way," Thomas told Wales Online. "We have a year now before Warburton, Bradley Davies and Leigh Halfpenny come out of contract. The PRGB must find a way to keep them here.

"Do we want Sam Warburton playing in France? No way. Do we want the Six Nations Player of the Tournament playing in France? No way. We have to find a way of keeping them in Wales. We cannot do it on our own, but with the WRU, through the PRGB, we can. I'm confident of that."

In the past, Ireland have managed to keep most of their best players in the country on central deals. Thomas is open to discussing this option with the WRU, but highlights the importance of the PRGB in these talks.

"At the moment they are just two words, there is no detail attached to it," Thomas added. "Nobody is saying what's behind it, what it involves, what is a central contract. Who does what? Who gives what? How will it effect the players?

"If we can get back to the PRGB then we can discuss, debate and decide on that, but nobody has ever said to the regions 'this is the detail behind the central contract'."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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