Autumn Internationals
IRB steer clear of Wales dispute
PA Sport
October 23, 2008
Wales coach Warren Gatland oversees training, February 23 2008
Wales are locked in a row over player release which threatens to scupper Warren Gatland's plans. © Getty Images
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The International Rugby Board will not become involved in Welsh rugby's dispute about player release before next month's autumn Test series opener against South Africa. The IRB say the issue is not within their jurisdiction.

Wales four professional regions - Cardiff Blues, the Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and the Scarlets - do not intend releasing their players until five days ahead of the Springboks clash on November 8.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland wants the players for at least three days next week, before the final round of EDF Energy Cup games, describing a five-day preparation period as "insufficient.'' But the IRB announced it cannot get involved in "internal domestic and/or private contractual disputes and/or scenarios'' after a three-man regulations committee discussed the matter.

Before the IRB decision, a spokesman for Regional Rugby Wales said: "The rules actually governing the length of release by the regions to the WRU is contained within the legally-binding participation agreement.

"This agreement requires the WRU to advise the regions, at the start of each season, of their training and assembly requirements for the season ahead, which this year the Union failed to do.''

In a statement, RRW said: "Any attempts by either the IRB or the Welsh Rugby Union to force the player release issue could also result in legal action by the regions, as the regions would be forced to release their star players ahead of the EDF Cup games, a competition established and partially organised by the WRU. By being forced to field weakened teams, the regions would be likely to argue that this has a serious impact on their commercial and financial position, especially as last year saw a Welsh region (Ospreys) scoop the lucrative title.''

The WRU responded to today's developments by making another request to the regions for release of their international players from next Monday.

The WRU said: "The Welsh Rugby Union is contacting its four regions with another official request for them to honour their contractual obligations and release all Wales international squad players for training from Monday, October 27.

"The WRU has been informed by the IRB that it considers the current issue of player release for Wales squad members does not fall within their jurisdiction, and that the IRB will issue no further ruling or guidance.

"The WRU believes the preparation of the national squad for international matches is a top priority for Welsh rugby, and that the reasonable requests of the national coaching team must be delivered.

"The regions have a proud history in the modern game of delivering in these circumstances, and we thank them for that in recognition of the pressures they are under as a result of the demands we all face in the professional era of rugby union.''

© PA Sport

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