Wales players are threatening to strike


The latest crisis to engulf the WRU has thrown the Six Nations match between Wales and England into doubt with reports of a possible Wales player strike.

The Mail reports that within the next week professional players in Wales, including Warren Gatland’s internationals, will discuss potential industrial action over the contractual chaos that has left many of them unable to sign new deals with their region.

The four professional teams in Wales – Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff and Dragons RFC – were told in January they could begin contract talks but with no confirmation of formal budgets for next season, they have been unable to finalise contracts which has left players with deals expiring this summer in a particularly precarious position.

One Wales starter told The Mail: “I can’t apply for a mortgage and I’m on antidepressants.” This comes in the wake of WRU CEO Steve Phillips’s resignation amid shocking claims of misogyny, sexism and racism within the organisation.

Acting chief executive Nigel Phillips has said all player contracts were likely to be sorted by the end of February but the situation has now come to a head with widespread discontent also filtering through on social media.

Read more: WRU CEO resigns

Potential Wales player strike – social media reaction

Wales centre Uilisi Halaholo tweeted: “Must be nice knowing you can still provide for your kids in about four months.

“Especially when you get injured putting your body on the line for your club. Now you got less chance of trying to get a contract somewhere to provide for your family because of injury. Mental health is real. Stay strong.”

The New Zealand-born star, who won the last of his ten caps in the defeat to Wales last year, was backed up by World Cup-winning All Black and dual-code legend Sonny Bill Williams who shared his support for a potential Wales player strike.

The recently retired star added: “Name me another “business” where the “employees” are treated this way. first NRL now the footy players up north are starting to stand up for their rights! Organisations are making 100s of millions of $ a year of the back of these players and this is how they’re treated.”

The Professional Rugby Board has the responsibility for the professional game in Wales with representatives from the four regions plus the WRU. Wales and Ospreys flanker Sam Cross has called for the Welsh Rugby Players Association to have a seat at the table.

He tweeted: “It’s time players stood up for ourselves and the WRPA had a seat on the PRB allowing us to have a voice in our own futures and on how the game is run in Wales going forward.”

Related: Wales Six Nations squad

After receiving positive responses to his initial message, Cross –  a Team GB silver medallist in sevens at Rio 2016 – added: “Amazing support tonight from the fans towards the players shows the bright side of Welsh rugby.

“All players are asking for is a fair deal and highlight the failure of PRB to properly consult us on issues that impact upon players well-being financially, physically and mentally.”

As it stands, players with fewer than 60 caps cannot be selected for Wales if they do not play for one of the country’s regions.
However, given the current financial landscape, Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young said Welsh rugby should not be “arrogant” by assuming players will continue to turn down approaches from abroad to ensure they are selectable for the national team.
One example is lock Will Rowlands, who has agreed to join Racing 92 from Dragons RFC at the end of the season and therefore could be ruled out of the World Cup. Rowlands is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury which will keep him out of the entire Six Nations.

Young said: “I’m sure a lot of countries will be monitoring the situation in Wales over the next month or so and more than happy to take our best players. I don’t think you could ever underestimate the power of the Welsh jersey – every kid growing up in Wales wants to play for Wales – but we shouldn’t be arrogant in that either.

“You’d have to respect players’ decisions because we’ve all got families and mortgages to look after.”

Wales are due to play England at Principality Stadium, Cardiff on Saturday, 25 February in Round Three of the Six Nations.

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