Gatland powerless to prevent exodus
February 22, 2012
Warren Gatland has seen a group of his players move cross-Channel © Getty Images
Wales boss Warren Gatland has admitted that he is at a loss to how he can prevent the likes of Gethin Jenkins from moving overseas.
It is understood 31-year-old Jenkins, who confirmed on Tuesday that he is to leave Cardiff Blues, has agreed a two-year contract with Toulon, joining a star-studded squad containing the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau and Bakkies Botha. Jenkins' Wales colleagues, former Ospreys trio Mike Phillips, James Hook and Lee Byrne, currently play in France - at Bayonne, Perpignan and Clermont Auvergne, respectively - while World Cup forwards Huw Bennett and Luke Charteris have been strongly linked with cross-channel moves.
"It is difficult to compete with the money the players are being offered overseas, given the financial pressures our regions are under at the moment," Wales boss Gatland said. "It is difficult for the regions and difficult for the players when they are being offered significantly more money overseas.
"I don't know what the answer is. My stance has always been ideally we would love them to stay here, and we will do everything we can to try to keep them here, but players have a very short career in terms of playing at this level."
Jenkins has won 84 caps and played in five Tests for the British and Irish Lions. He will be a cornerstone of the Wales pack in Saturday's Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham.
"I definitely will not be with the Blues next season, and yes, I am going to France," Jenkins told the Western Mail. "I was offered a deal by the Blues, but that was after talks were put off about an extension on several occasions.
"In the end, they said they couldn't pay me while I was fulfilling international commitments, and so I felt I had no choice. I had to think about my future, just like any player or anyone in any walk of life would do.
"I won't leave with any bitterness and I will give the Blues everything between now and the end of this season, just the same as I have always done. But after that, it will be time for me to have a fresh start and a new challenge."
Wales scrum-half Phillips, meanwhile, believes his move to France has so far provided him with everything he wanted.
"It has been good for me," he said. "We've had a lot of changes in coaches at Bayonne since I have been there, but it has been exciting.
"It is what I wanted and what I needed, and I have loved every minute of it. It has freshened me up. It was a chance to experience new things, try new things and experience France, which I have always wanted to do.
"It is a beautiful part of the world. I live in Biarritz, which is stunning, and the people have welcomed me really well."
Speaking prior to Jenkins' announcement, former Wales captain Matthew Rees admitted the number of players heading to pastures new is a concern.
"We are working well at international level, but the regions are an issue at the moment, especially when you start seeing your best players in Wales leaving," said Scarlets hooker Rees, who is unavailable for the England clash due to injury. "I think something needs to be done sooner rather than later to stop this from happening.
"At the end of the day, the supporters want to be seeing the best Welsh players playing in Wales. You don't want to be seeing them leaving to go elsewhere. We've put the building blocks in place in terms of the international scene and Wales as a team.
"But that is only as strong as your regions are, and we've got to make sure that is sorted sooner rather than later."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
Ask John answers questions on the Leopards' tour to Italy in 1974, brotherly Test sides, Pat McGrath, England's games against the Barbarians and Jacques Brunel
"We were only five metres away in the last Test of getting that try and with Jonny's inevitable conversion, we'd have won it." Tom Hamilton talks to Lions fullback Matt Perry
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