WRU and regions strike historic peace deal
September 8, 2009
Roger Lewis has hailed the new agreement between the regions and WRU © Getty Images
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the four professional regions have announced a long-awaited peace deal that will bring to an end months of infighting between the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales over player release and funding.
The historic five-year participation agreement ensures player release for up to 13 Wales Tests a year, safeguarding Wales' autumn showdown with the All Blacks on November 7, and two further non-international tour games as well as seeing funding for the regions increased from £3.6 million a year to £6million.
Players will be released by the Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets 13 days before the start of the autumn internationals and Six Nations. It will be monitored by a management board consisting of representatives from the four regions and the WRU.
In addition the two parties agreed that the regions' matchday squads would contain on average a minimum of 17 players qualified to play international rugby for Wales.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis and his RRW counterpart Stuart Gallacher have brokered the deal after extensive discussions, ending the threat of high-court action against the WRU over the All Blacks' Test -arranged outside the official IRB Test window.
RRW had taken the union to court over player release for the fixture, with proceedings set to begin this week, in a re-run of troubles from last season's autumn Test with South Africa.
The Wales Sevens team, who shocked the game by winning the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai, will also be officially contracted.
"This agreement is a historic landmark for Welsh rugby and will help shape the future of our national game," said Lewis. "At its heart it gives the regions the financial security to carry out a mandate to recruit and develop Welsh international players.
"We have achieved an agreement which is rooted in the best interests of the whole of Welsh rugby, because a winning Wales will deliver the support and commercial success we need to sustain rugby at all levels across our nation.
"It is a wide-ranging agreement which required a lot of hard work to complete, and I want to publicly thank everyone who has helped devise and broker it.
"It was never going to be easy to achieve, but we have all remained totally focused through the passion we all share for Wales and Welsh rugby. Now, a lot of hard work lies ahead of us all in turning this agreement into a body of work which truly shapes the future of our game."
Toulon's Heineken Cup final victory over Clermont Auvergne may have ended a long title drought for the Top 14 club but two of their players are no strangers to success
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes