Welsh Rugby
Gatland fires World Cup warning
ESPNscrum Staff
October 18, 2010

Warren Gatland has warned Welsh players based in England that their participation in next year's Rugby World Cup is in doubt due to a Premier Rugby ruling.

The governing body of the 12 Premiership clubs will not release players for international duty before August 4 next year - the latest date possible and just days before Wales' warm-up game against England.

Gatland described their stance as 'ridiculous' and confirmed that players such as Wasps No.8 Andy Powell and Sale scrum-half Dwayne Peel face missing out on the sport's showpiece event.

The duo have both been omitted from Wales' November squad in part because they are unavailable for the first Test against Australia on November 6 as it falls outside the IRB's designated window.

"The major concern is we have had a letter from Premier Rugby saying players in England will not be released until August 4," Gatland said. "That is completely ridiculous to say the players will finish [the season] in May but not be available for national squads until August, two days before we play England in our first warm-up game.

"It's going to limit players playing in England being available in terms of preparation or being available for the squad. Picking this squad we have looked at this campaign and the Six Nations, and if a player playing across the bridge is unavailable until August 4 it is highly unlikely they will be considered for the World Cup squad."

Premier Rugby chief Mark McCafferty bit back at Gatland, insisting that they were merely following IRB regulations. "This is an IRB regulation that players only have to be released 35 days before a tournament," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"We didn't lobby for this at all. And no one has said anything about it until this point. It's not an issue for us although it's been characterised as such. It's disappointing when others start to beat the drum and portray us as the bad guys."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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