Welsh Rugby
Blues confirm Williams and Shanklin exit
ESPNscrum Staff
January 20, 2011
Wales' Martyn Williams and Tom Shanklin, Wales training session, Vale of Glamorgan Hotel, Wales, September 14, 2007
Both Williams and Shanklin will be hoping to be part of Wales' World Cup assault © Getty Images

Cardiff Blues chief Peter Thomas has confirmed that veterans Martyn Williams and Tom Shanklin will be leaving the region at the end of the current season.

Thomas has slashed the Magners League side's squad budget from £5m to £4.4m for next season following a disappointing campaign with the team's early exit from the Heineken Cup set to cost the region a reported £500,000.

Williams and Shanklin are the biggest casualties so far with the long-serving duo not being offered new contracts. "This is the biggest, hardest, toughest, worst decision I have had to make in my 20 years with Cardiff," Thomas told the South Wales Echo newspaper. "They are two of the greatest servants we have ever had. I have never met two finer people than Martyn and Tom. I think they are absolute gems, who have given us everything.

"Tom has kept his knee together since the Lions tour of 2005 and put his body on the line year after year. And Martyn is a legend who richly deserves to become a centurion for what he has done for Welsh rugby. He is one of this country's finest ever players. But Old Father Time catches up with everybody. They are both coming out of contract and part of the cutbacks are that people who are out of contract can't be retained because other people are in contract."

Thomas revealed that his hand was forced after the Blues' exit from Europe's premier competition. "Over the last few years, and this season in particular, we have thrown the financial kitchen sink at the squad," he said. "Our squad cost for this season is £5m. We have gone for the best in Dan Parks and Michael Paterson and retained Xavier Rush. On paper, it's by far the strongest squad we have had.

"A lot of people have taken huge decisions to support this and we will continue to support it. But the reason for the budget reduction for next season is quite simple. It's the cost of failure. We failed in the Heineken Cup and we have to face the consequences and pay the price. We didn't get the income we were projecting from Europe. As a consequence, we are cutting back.

"It doesn't mean we won't be competing for the Heineken Cup next year. Our ambition has not faltered at all. We want to be there at the top end of European rugby, competing in every game and every event. We are not destroying this team. We are not going backwards, we are going forwards, with a lot of new, young blood coming through.

"Our budget cap for next season will be £4.4m, which is the same as the English clubs. We aren't going below what Leicester or Northampton spend. If they can compete in the Heineken Cup on that budget, then so can we."

Thomas also firmly rejected any suggestion the cuts were a consequence of costs incurred through moving to the Cardiff City Stadium from the Arms Park insisting that crowd numbers and revenue was up.

And while disappointed with the on-field results, he has total faith in coach David Young who he intends to offer a new deal. "Dai Young is the finest signing I have ever made," he said. "He is my anchor, my backbone. We are lucky to have him. I have already had discussions with Dai about him staying at the club until 2015. I have told him his next move has got to be to Wales."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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