Welsh Rugby
Gatland: 'We have to keep Sam Warburton'
ESPN Staff
October 20, 2013
Sam Warburton put in a solid showing against Toulon on Saturday for the Blues © Getty Images

Wales boss Warren Gatland has issued a passionate plea for skipper Sam Warburton to stay within the regional system rather than moving to France at the end of the season.

Warburton is just one of a number of top Welsh players whose contracts are up at the end of the campaign. Leigh Halfpenny is reportedly on Toulon's radar while the likes of Clermont, Toulon and Racing Metro are all understood to be keen on bringing the British & Irish Lions skipper to France.

Warburton has already said he is keen to stay in Wales but any future deal is dependent on the future of the Heineken Cup. The four Unions that make up the RaboDirect PRO12 are still locked in discussions over whether they will join the breakaway Rugby Champions Cup or gamble on some level of compromise to be found over the future of the Heineken Cup.

Regardless of the row engulfing many of European rugby's stakeholders, Gatland hopes Warburton will spurn France and stay in Wales for the good of the national game.

"We have to keep Sam Warburton," Gatland told the Rugby Paper. "He's absolutely paramount to us - we cannot lose a Wales and Lions captain. It's a terrible message to send.

"We have players in Wales who are world class, and these are the ones that people target. That's what we're facing, but, hopefully, we can get resolution in Europe which will resolve it. If the Welsh regions can be part of making the game more attractive, we can close the gap."

And Gatland has also suggested the grass is not always greener for those contemplating a move to the Top 14. He added: "We may not be able to compete with the same money, but at least we can ensure that they are looked after in terms of the best facilities and care.

"The feedback we get from France is that where the money is great, the rest of it is not that rosy - it's a very long season and the coaching, medical facilities, training and rest periods are not perhaps that good. Maybe the word will get around that the grass isn't always greener."

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