Howley wants solution to players taking French leave
Rob Howley accepts that a solution to Welsh international rugby’s overseas player departures will not be found overnight. But Howley, Wales’ interim head coach, is confident ongoing talks between the Welsh Rugby Union and four professional regions – Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons – can reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Howley will take his Autumn Test squad to Poland next weekend for an intensive training camp ahead of appointments with Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
France-based quartet James Hook, Luke Charteris, Mike Phillips and Gethin Jenkins, though, are not available due to club commitments with Perpignan, Bayonne and Toulon. It is also highly unlikely they will make Wales’ final Autumn Test against Australia on 1 December, as that game falls outside the International Rugby Board fixture window and clubs are not obliged to release their players.
Two other Wales stars – centre Jamie Roberts and flanker Dan Lydiate – are the latest to be linked with French moves when their existing regional contracts expire at the end of this season. And Howley revealed yesterday that he recently travelled to France alongside Wales boss Warren Gatland for discussions with the relevant clubs.
“Warren and I went over to France and had five or six days with the various coaching teams in Bayonne, Toulon and Perpignan,” Howley said. “There are ongoing discussions with those players based in France. At this moment, those players are unlikely to be involved in the Australia game.
“But it is important we look at every individual case and why that player is going to France. If they are being head-hunted, then surely between the agent, the player and the club president there can be some sort of arrangement or discussion that the player becomes available for some preparation time or a game outside the IRB Test window.
“Ideally, we want everyone to stay in Wales, but we understand in terms of supply and demand that is not going to happen. We need to find a Welsh solution. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s softly, softly, and communications are in place, and I am sure a solution will be in place shortly.”
Squad: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Liam Williams (Scarlets), A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets), H Robinson (Cardiff Blues), A Beck (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), S Williams (Scarlets), D Biggar (Ospreys), J Hook (Perpignan), R Priestland (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues). Forwards: S Andrews (Cardiff Blues), R Bevington (Ospreys), P James (Bath), A Jarvis (Ospreys), G Jenkins (Toulon), A Jones (Ospreys), R Hibbard (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), M Rees (Scarlets), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), L Charteris (Perpignan), I Evans (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), R McCusker (Scarlets), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt).
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