Howley keen to prevent Welsh exodus
October 23, 2012
Jamie Roberts is a man in demand © Getty Images
Interim boss Rob Howley is adamant that a solution must be found to keep Wales' best players in the country with the lure of the Top 14 Orange threatening to tempt more of their stars cross-Channel.
The Welsh Rugby Union and the four regions - Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons - are currently in discussion regarding the possibility of adopting central contracts. The WRU is confident that such an approach, with the Irish already utilising a similar system, will help stem the tide of Welsh players opting for greater riches in France.
James Hook, Luke Charteris, Mike Phillips and Gethin Jenkins are already turning out in the Top 14 and they are set to sit out Wales' match with Australia on December 1 due to the clash falling outside of the official International Rugby Board Test window. The French regions are under no obligation to release the players for international duty and Howley has admitted that the quartet are likely to miss the match.
And Howley has revealed that he recently travelled to France alongside Wales boss Warren Gatland for discussions with the relevant clubs.
"Warren and myself went over to France and had five or six days with the various coaching teams in Bayonne, Toulon and Perpignan," Howley said. "There are ongoing discussions with those players based in France. At this moment in time, those players are unlikely to be involved in the Australia game.
"But it is important we look at every individual case and why that player is going to France. If they are being head-hunted, then surely between the agent, the player and the club president there can be some sort of arrangement or discussion that the player becomes available for some preparation time or a game outside the IRB Test window.
"It was important for us to go to France. If you don't try, I think you are always going to have a negative answer. We wanted to open discussions and try to create a relationship. Ideally, we want everyone to stay in Wales, but we understand in terms of supply and demand that is not going to happen - from a players' perspective and from a region's perspective - and we just have to get on with it and manage our players the best we can.
"We need to find a Welsh solution. At this moment in time there is a lot of good talk going on between the regions and the Welsh Rugby Union, and I am sure at some stage a solution will be found. It is important the right solution is found. It's not going to happen overnight. It's softly, softly, and communications are in place, and I am sure a solution will be in place shortly.
"It is going to take time. Someone like Jamie Roberts is in a different situation to Craig Mitchell, who is in a different situation to Mike Phillips or James Hook. That is why time is being taken."
Roberts is currently linked with a move to France with Toulouse and Racing Metro reportedly keen on the centre's signature and Howley commented on the Blues player's future saying: "What tends to happen in Wales is that players are talked about as a collective, but every player will make his own decision.
"I have been in discussions with Jamie over the last two or three weeks, and I know he has spoken with Roger Lewis (WRU group chief executive) and Cardiff Blues. I think Jamie's position is a little bit different compared to every other player who might decide to go over to France. I don't think it is a financial decision Jamie has to make.
"He is going to be a doctor, and Jamie might buck the trend in deciding to go for reasons other than finance. That is Jamie's decision."
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