Welsh Rugby Unions chief wary of funding gap
September 2, 2013
WRU chief Roger Lewis is determined to build 'sustainable structures' in Wales © Getty Images
Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) chief executive Roger Lewis has hailed the latest meeting with regional bosses but admitted there is still plenty of work to do to ensure that they retain the services of the country's leading players.
Relations between the WRU and the four regions - the Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - have improved recently after months of bickering with the Professional Regional Game Board re-forming to govern the professional game in Wales.
But the financial climate remains a major concerns for all parties - despite a promised additional injection of £1m by the union - with Wales stars George North, Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate just the latest players to turn their back on the domestic game with the trio having moved to England and France respectively in recent months.
Speaking to the Western Mail, Lewis has welcomed the continuing dialogue with the regions but question marks still remain about how the regions plan to keep hold of their best talent. "We met with the regions again last week and it was very positive meeting," he said. "It was the second meeting of the Professional Regional Game Board, chaired by Sir Wyn Williams, and the four regional chairman were present.
"What we discussed was looking long-term. In the background is £1m available to the game for retaining current players, but also retaining future players as well. We will continue that debate together and we still have more work to do in how we feel best to use that money.
"But we know that more than £1m is required and that is what we are focused upon as well. "We are working together in the best interests of Welsh rugby and we want our regions to perform and take them forward over the next few years. We need to be thinking about sustainable structures."
Wales and Lions star Toby Faletau recently bucked the trend by recently re-signing with the Dragons and Lewis is hoping he is not the last to commit his future to Welsh rugby with the likes of fellow international Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny among those coming off contract at the end of this season.
"There are many players in Wales we need to keep here," he said. "We had 100 players from Wales Under-18s to the Lions who were wearing the red jersey and more than 90 per cent are playing in Wales this season.
"We need to look at the big picture and there are many players to retain in Wales. It is good for the headlines to focus on one or two star names but for a sustainable rugby nation we need to look at the bigger picture.
"Let's take a leaf out of the Newport Gwent Dragons book because they have signed one of the most exciting back-row forwards in the world in Toby Faletau. We need to work out how we can replicate that.
"The four regions are confident they can be the primary employer of the players and they have taken on the responsibility. They have said they want to be the contractual arm so we need to encourage them on that."
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