Tuesday 17 September 2019

Wales scrap 'Gatland's Law' and announce new selection policy for overseas players

Warren Gatland, who has been in charge of Wales since late 2007, will leave his post after the 2019 World Cup. Photo:Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Warren Gatland, who has been in charge of Wales since late 2007, will leave his post after the 2019 World Cup. Photo:Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Andrew Baldock

The Welsh Rugby Union has changed its international player selection policy and scrapped so-called Gatland's Law.

Heading into this term and next, players with clubs outside Wales required one of four wildcard picks to represent their country, with that figure dropping to two for the 2019/20 World Cup season.

It was designed to keep players in Wales, but the policy did not work, with star names currently in the Aviva Premiership including George North, Liam Williams, Jamie Roberts and Taulupe Faletau, while Dan Biggar will join Northampton next season and his current Wales and Ospreys half-back partner Rhys Webb will link-up with French heavyweights Toulon.

WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips announced on Monday that Wales will now follow an Australian-style caps rule as criteria for selecting individuals at Test level who do not play domestic rugby in their own country.

If a player has won 60 caps or more, then his international prospects will not be affected. The new policy takes effect from Monday.

Biggar currently has 56 caps, but he is likely to hit the 60-mark this season with Wales having four autumn Tests and then a Six Nations campaign.

Webb, though, is potentially a different story.

The 28 times-capped number nine is set to play for Toulon on a lucrative contract from next season, and if that move goes ahead, then he would be captured by the new policy and therefore ineligible.

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And Gloucester's Wales international flanker Ross Moriarty could also be caught when his existing Gloucester contract expires, although not if he decides on a move to Wales.

Players like North, Roberts and Faletau have more than 60 caps, while Williams had already started playing for Saracens before the policy changed.

Phillips said: "Whatever contract that a player is in today, that contract is protected.

"When that contract expires and If the player has less than 60 caps, they would not be eligible for selection. If they have 60 or more caps and they are outside Wales they would be.

'The existing policy worked to an extent, but it has not worked well enough. It was quite complicated. We want to make it simpler.

"We have tried to step back and say: 'let's try to simplify this' make it understandable for players, for supporters and try and give each of the five entities (four regions and Wales) access to the players they need."

Wales head coach Warren Gatland added: "'For me as a national coach, if I was being perfectly selfish, would I have a policy? No I wouldn't. It is not about me or the national team, it is about what is the best thing for Welsh rugby?

"The best thing for Welsh rugby and for the union to support the regions is to try and keep the best players in Wales for as long as we possibly can. We know we are under pressure from market forces.

"This new policy is pretty much black and white."

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