Gallacher hails new WRU agreement
September 8, 2009
Wales' autumn showdown with the All Blacks is back on track © Getty Images
Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) chief Stuart Gallacher has hailed the newly-signed participation agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), hoping that the accord will propel Welsh rugby to new heights.
The agreement signalled an end to court proceedings between the two parties, finalising player release for the forthcoming visit of the All Blacks to the Millennium Stadium on November 7. The game had been threatened by RRW, the umbrella body representing Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets, refusing to release players as the fixture fell outside of the official IRB window for November Tests.
Gallacher insisted the bigger picture was more important in this instance as for the first time the regions and WRU have a formal agreement for player release and international fixtures as well as increased funding.
"It's not just what's gone one in the last week, we've been discussing the way forward with the WRU for something like two years," Gallacher told ESPNScrum. "The negotiations got more intense as the court case was looming up, so I'm delighted on behalf of RRW that we've reached a fair, just and amicable agreement with the WRU.
"One might say that we brought the international game against New Zealand in to the public arena with our refusal to release the players. I've said many times before that that was only a small part of the argument.
"The argument was about a clear understanding of what the regions had to do in the release periods for international rugby, when we had to release for training, what we got in return and a myriad of other issues that are wrapped up in running a professional game.
"I'm delighted now that we've put all that to one side and I genuinely believe the regions are coming forward to deliver what we all wish for; a successful regional base and a very successful Welsh national side."
Another facet of the agreement that will boost the game in Wales is the introduction of measures to ensure that an average of 17 players in the regions' match day squads are Welsh qualified.
"I think the key is that we're a small nation, we only have four professional teams unlike our counterparts in France and England," said Gallacher. "In a way we can be more in control of our destiny in as much as it's a tighter parcel of players that we have available to us.
"The main thrust of the agreement is to keep our best players in Wales and for the regions to have more players in their squads on a weekly basis, and I think with those things they will rewarded by what we've agreed with the WRU."
The introduction of this rule may place pressure on the regions in terms of their short-term playing stocks, a concern that Gallacher believes will help accelerate growth in the academy structure. Control of the academies has passed from the WRU to the regions and they are now solely responsible for developing players for regional competition and eventually international recognition.
"The common link in all of this is the regional academies; they've been handed to the regions now out of the direct control of the WRU," said Gallacher. "It's the responsibility of the regions now, they can't point the finger at anyone else and neither do they want to.
"They have their destiny in their own hands in terms of developing Welsh players in the academies and in the regional sides. Rome wasn't built in a day but I'm very confident we can deliver what we've been asked to deliver through the contract. It will take some time. It's a fairly radical and robust agreement but it's one that we can all deliver on."
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.