Welsh Rugby
Welsh stars offered central contracts
ESPN Staff
October 24, 2013
Alun-Wyn Jones' contract is up at the end of the season © Getty Images

The Welsh Rugby Union is to offer the country's leading players central contracts as a way of staving off interest from France amid the uncertainty facing the future of the Heineken Cup.

Regional Rugby Wales - the organisation heading up the four Welsh regions - took the step of declaring their interest in joining the breakaway club-run Rugby Champions Cup on Wednesday. This seemed to oppose the WRU's stance with the body in charge of Welsh rugby previously saying it would only support the new competition if it received International Rugby Board approval.

The WRU is yet to issue a response to RRW's stance, but it has moved to help secure the country's top players with Leigh Halfpenny, Sam Warburton, Ian Evans, Alun-Wyn Jones and Adam Jones all out of contract at the end of the season.

Halfpenny's agent has previously said the uncertainty over the Heineken Cup is impacting decisions over the player's future but the WRU is optimistic of keeping the players in the country under the new scheme.

"Due to the length of the ongoing European negotiations the Welsh Regions have expressed concerns about their ability to conclude their own negotiations with leading players who are approaching the end of their existing contracts," the statement from the WRU read. "To help and support the four Welsh Regions the WRU has offered to immediately assist to enable the regions to retain their leading Welsh qualified players in Wales.

"The WRU has offered to contract all of the regions' leading Welsh qualified players who are out of contract at the end of this season, on appropriate terms to be agreed. Once the negotiations regarding the European tournament are successfully concluded the WRU would permit the regions to revert to the current position with the agreed contracts being reassigned back to them.

"The WRU has committed more than £33 million to the four Welsh regions over the course of the next five years to retain players in Wales, in addition to all of the Welsh revenues generated from the RaboDirect and any future European competition."

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