Gatland warning to overseas stars
November 22, 2011
Warren Gatland will stick to his guns over not picking those Welsh players who have moved overseas © Getty Images
Coach Warren Gatland has reiterated to his Welsh charges that they risk their international future if they opt to take their rugby career overseas.
Since his appointment following the 2007 World Cup the New Zealander has encouraged squad members to play their club rugby in Wales, and eschew the offers of English and French clubs. Those playing for the Welsh regions are released for all Wales' games and squad sessions under the terms of the participation agreement between the WRU and the quartet of professional sides.
But players involved in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 competitions do not have to be made available for international duty outside the International Rugby Board's designated Test windows.
Those restrictions have meant that the French-based trio of James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne, plus Exeter prop Craig Mitchell and Sale back-rower Andy Powell, have been omitted from Gatland's squad to face Australia a week on Saturday, and there could be further repercussions when the RBS 6 Nations gets under way in February.
Gatland would ideally like his players available for 13 days prior to their opener against Ireland in Dublin, but the quintet's respective clubs will all have fixtures the weekend before the Aviva Stadium clash, and under IRB rules will not be obliged to release them for Wales duty until the start of Test week. And Gatland has made it clear that may have consequences when it comes to selection.
Gatland said: "We knew the English and French-based players would not be available because this game is outside that IRB window. But we have said before, and we have been pretty consistent in this situation, that if those players in France and England can't get full release for the Six Nations then they will not be selected in the squad.
"We have been disappointed to hear that a couple of them had verbal agreements but it is not written in their contracts, which I sat down with them and told them to do.
"So the warning out there that if you are going to leave Wales, make sure you have full release for all Wales games and squad sessions in your contract because if you don't you are not going to be selected, and it is a bit of a concern for us going forward."
Gatland also has a string of injury headaches ahead of the Millennium Stadium meeting with the Wallabies, with World Cup stars Jamie Roberts, Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate, George North and Rhys Priestland all carrying knocks. And one man he will definitely have to do without is prop Adam Jones, who has suffered a recurrence of his calf problem, and he has been replaced in the squad by uncapped 20-year-old Scarlets' prop Rhodri Jones.
But there was some positive news for Gatland after assistant coach Rob Howley signed a new contract to remain as part of the national set-up until 2016. The announcement follows last week's confirmation that Shaun Edwards had agreed a new deal to take him through to the 2015 World Cup. Edwards and Howley will also work with Wales' age-grade sides.
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