Welsh rugby agrees £60m deal to retain star players
Welsh rugby has finally agreed a peace deal with 10 players receiving dual contracts in a six-year £60m-plus agreement.
The new Rugby Services Agreement, which runs through until 2020, ends months of painstaking negotiations between the Welsh Rugby Union and the four regions over the future of the professional game in Wales.
Among the key points is the provision of national dual contracts for the first time to try and keep key players in Wales.
The 10 dual contracted players will include Wales captain Sam Warburton, who signed a central contract earlier this year but has been unable to play for Cardiff Blues during the pre-season period, and his fellow British and Irish Lions Alun-Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Gethin Jenkins.
Dual contracts are understood to involve a 60-40 WRU-region split.
The RSA delivers £8.7m a year to the regions for Welsh qualified players and the WRU has allocated £2m of that to be spent on national dual contracts with an additional £1.3m coming from the regions.
WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis said: "This new agreement creates a new and positive relationship within Welsh rugby and is firmly based on the rugby priorities for Wales.
"The national dual contracts represent a radical step forward in our mutual aim of retaining Welsh talent here in Wales.
"The new contracts will help us keep more of our best players in Wales and will help stem the flow abroad of the talent we develop here through our academies and regions.
"We now have an agreement which will ensure the pyramid structure which leads from the grassroots right through to the international team is strong and truly fit for purpose."
Chairman of Regional Rugby Wales Nigel Short said: "Following long and detailed negotiations, RRW is satisfied that the new agreement with the WRU creates a fair, progressive and credible foundation to protect and support the best interests of Welsh Rugby into the future; with the core objective of delivering a sustainable and competitive professional game in Wales.
"With greater clarity and the security of a new agreement, the regions can forward plan with more focus, working hard to ensure their independent businesses remain competitive.
"Things will not change overnight - but securing our new agreement in partnership is a positive forward step."
Under the new deal players offered national dual contracts will be chosen by Wales coach Warren Gatland and become WRU employees.
Wales will also introduce a new senior policy which declares that players based outside the country will not be eligible for selection subject to a number of exceptions made by the national head coach.
The new RSA also limits the number of foreign players in regional squads to a maximum of six while each region will be allowed two so-called time serving players who will be available for Welsh selection after three years residency.