WRU must act or face player exodus



[icWales] WELSH rugby was last night warned time was of the essence if it wanted to prevent an exodus of Steve Hansen's star men to foreign fields.

The message was spelt out by solicitor Richard Harry, who has nearly completed work on the establishment of a players' union in Wales.

He was backed in his views by players' agent Kevin Lane.

"The players are very concerned and some of them are looking to get as far away from here as possible. As the situation stands, I am looking as far afield as Italy and France for contracts," said Lane.

"I am starting to talk to the clubs about my players who are coming out of contract at the end of the season because those players want results. They want to know what is happening.

"If the WRU and the clubs don't come up with a solution in the next couple of weeks, panic could set in and people will be off.

"None of us want that, but it is the reality of the situation. People have mortgages to pay - they need to be in employment."

Lane, who has represented rugby's most marketable commodity, Jonah Lomu, in the past, has about 25 players on his books.

Harry agreed with Lane, but pointed out, "The situation not only applies to people coming out of contract, but those in contract and those who sign new contracts with clubs."

Martyn and Rhys Williams are among the Welsh stars who have recently agreed new club deals but Harry warned players, "You could sign a contract this week and it could be worthless next week or the week after."

Harry has been busy setting up a players' association in Wales at their behest. It is expected to be formally launched next week.

The WRU has called a meeting with the Premier Division clubs for Tuesday to discuss its plan for four regional teams and to establish a timetable for setting up the outfits.

However, Llanelli and Cardiff have come out firmly against the concept of new entities and new names, while Pontypridd are reserving judgement although they will attend the talks at the Millennium Stadium.

Cardiff and Llanelli have threatened legal action to prevent the move. Pontypridd chief executive Gareth Thomas said they did not plan on joining them but repeated his club's stance that there should be five professional teams.

Harry believes the WRU should give until the end of March to thrash out the definitive way forward.

"I think there will need to be a back-stop date. If there is not, the practical reality is the player-base will start to go," he said.

"I know English club rugby is not exactly flush with money at the moment, but there are players coming out of contract in Wales who would interest them."

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