Rugby Union: Humphreys `ready to quit' over WRU threat

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The Independent Online
THE FORMER Wales captain Jonathan Humphreys yesterday threatened to quit rugby if he was forced to move from Cardiff by the Welsh Rugby Union because of a long-running dispute between his club and the governing body.

The Cardiff hooker looks set to be caught up in a club versus country row if Cardiff do not sign a loyalty agreement by midday today.

The WRU could strip Cardiff of their Welsh internationals like Humphreys and the present Wales captain, Rob Howley, if the agreement is not signed. Wales' leading internationals are contracted to the WRU and they have threatened to place the players with other Welsh clubs.

"If the WRU told me I had to join another club, I would retire," said Humphreys, the Cardiff captain.

"Cardiff is my club, the only one I want to play for. I would not consider going anywhere else.

"I hope it does not come to that. The players have been caught in the middle for far too long and it is time that the administrators sorted things out."

Humphreys claimed many of Wales' leading players were supporting moves to play the best clubs in England in a British league, a plan which collapsed last week after talks between Brian Baister, the chairman of the Rugby Football Union, and representatives of the other governing bodies in the British Isles.

The groups failed to reach an agreement and the idea fell through, leading to the English clubs accusing Vernon Pugh, the chairman of the International Rugby Board, of having an influence behind the scenes in pouring cold water on the plans, even though he was in Argentina at the time.

Now the Welsh players, many of whom have expressed regret at the standards and competitiveness of their own domestic competitions, are speaking out in favour of the cross-border plan.

"We are very disappointed that there will not be a British League this season," said Humphreys.

"The Welsh club scene desperately needed it. We are told such a league will be organised next year, but how do we know that? The World Cup is taking place then and it may be put off for another year.

"Welsh rugby does not have the time to waste anymore. The top sides need to be playing quality rugby week-in, week-out and unfortunately the Welsh system does not provide that.

"As players we will do as our clubs direct. We want to play but we won't be used as pawns."

Cardiff themselves are still in a state of limbo. They have said that they do not wish to play in Welsh domestic competitions any more because of their on-running dispute with the Union, but their plans to play against Allied Dunbar clubs have been thwarted by the RFU.