Welsh Rugby
WRU seek clarification over player release
PA Sport
November 5, 2008
Gareth Cooper of Gloucester runs with the ball during the Heineken Cup match between Cardiff Blues and Gloucester at the Millennium Stadium  in Cardiff, Wales on October 19, 2008.
Gloucester scrum-half Gareth Cooper will line up against the Springboks this weekend © Getty Images

Welsh rugby chiefs are "seeking clarification" about scrum-half Dwayne Peel's availability for the autumn Test series finale against Australia.

Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation for England's 12 Guinness Premiership clubs, say neither Peel, his fellow scrum-half Gareth Cooper nor prop Eifion Roberts will be available to face the Wallabies. This is due to the Wallabies fixture falling outside the International Rugby Board window for autumn Tests.

The possible absence of Gloucester No.9 Cooper, who starts against Wales' opening November opponents South Africa on Saturday, and Peel would leave national coach Warren Gatland facing a scrum-half crisis. Ospreys star Mike Phillips is currently recovering from a major knee injury, meaning uncapped Scarlets prospect Martin Roberts could potentially prove Gatland's only serious option.

The latest episode comes less than a fortnight after the Welsh Rugby Union gained a High Court ruling freeing players from regional team commitments for three days' Test squad training last week. On the Australia weekend, Sale have a Friday night Premiership appointment with Leicester, while Gloucester host Northampton the following afternoon.

In a statement, the WRU said: "In the case of Dwayne Peel, the WRU has been told by his club that his release for the Australia international is not an issue. But the PRL has informed the Welsh Rugby Union he will be needed for club duties. The WRU is currently seeking clarification.

"The Wales team management is fully aware of the club priorities involved and, in all cases, are anxious for meaningful discussions over player release to take place. The Welsh Rugby Union has confirmed that all relevant RFU Premiership clubs have been informed of Wales squad training requirements for forthcoming internationals, including the 2009 RBS 6 Nations tournament and the summer tour of the USA and Canada.

"Release of players from the four Welsh Regions is subject to contract through the current Participation Agreement, and through IRB regulations when relevant. No formal agreement exists with RFU clubs, and all Welsh players have been advised that the club they are contracted to is a factor taken into consideration for Wales squad or team selection.

"Speculation regarding the release of England-based Wales squad players for the forthcoming international against Australia on November 29 is currently the subject of discussions involving Wales national squad management, WRU officials and relevant parties.

"The WRU notes that similar issues involving all the home nations have been resolved in recent past seasons through meaningful negotiation with club representatives."

The BBC reported earlier today that that Premier Rugby had insisted the players return to the clubs at the close of the international window.

Premier Rugby chief Mark McCafferty said, "The players are required to be at their clubs for those games. Under International Rugby Board regulations when international fixtures are agreed, they must take place in the international window. Under IRB regulation nine players can only be assembled for international duty by mutual agreement with their clubs and regions."

David Moffett, Regional Rugby Wales' interim chief executive, commented,"It's just yet another example of the two different rules that apply between the regions and others. It makes it all the more galling that WRU took the regions to court just recently because the regions have been so supportive to the WRU over the years, more than any other country playing international rugby."

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