Impoverished Celts bemoan lure of Anglo-French riches

Wales and Scotland, financially challenged to such a degree that they are even shorter of money than they are of results, are pressing the international rugby community to address the economic imbalance that threatens to wreak as much havoc in Europe as in the southern hemisphere, where the Pacific Islands unions are close to bankruptcy. David Moffett, chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, confirmed his intention to raise the issue when the Six Nations committee next meets.

Moffett, not one to spare the sensibilities of others, spent much of yesterday lambasting the cash-rich clubs of England and France for throwing money at home-grown players plying their trade with the newly-established Welsh regional teams. "These countries are rugby powerhouses, but it won't do them much good if they have no one to play," he said, warning that top-level rugby would soon resemble Premiership football in England, where "only two or three teams are able to compete".

The chief executive saved his sharpest criticism for the French clubs, who are chasing three outstanding Welsh backs - the Celtic Warriors utility back Gareth Thomas, the Neath-Swansea Ospreys wing Shane Williams and the Llanelli Scarlets outside-half Stephen Jones. "The French are artificially inflating the transfer market," Moffett fumed. "They don't have a salary cap, and seem to be a law unto themselves. It's not just Wales. If they targeted Brian O'Driscoll" - the captain of Ireland and one of the most valuable players in world rugby - "they would get him through financial muscle."

Llanelli appear to have resigned themselves to losing Jones. "Clubs from both England and France have offered Stephen double his current salary, and we simply cannot compete," said Stuart Gallacher, the chief executive at Stradey Park. "How are we expected to make a decent fist of the Heineken Cup with one hand tied behind our back?"

Wales were not alone in moaning and groaning about the injustices of the game. Matt Williams, the Australian who coached Scotland to the most worm-eaten of wooden spoons in this season's Six Nations, admitted commercial realities were undermining his aim of keeping the best Scottish players in the best Scottish teams.

"We're not helping ourselves by allowing our players to leave Scotland," he said. "We are trying to set up a nationally co-ordinated approach to the international game, but the process becomes very difficult when extreme financial pressure causes people to play in England. Players have to understand that by leaving this country, they have chosen to put Scotland second. That's fine, but there are obvious ramifications. People who play for the professional teams here deserve our loyalty."

Yesterday, Williams named a 54-man squad for next week's fitness session - the first leg of the build-up for the summer Tests against Australia and Samoa. Some of the most prominent players - Tom Smith, Jason White, Simon Danielli - will playrugby in England next season, and while the coach has just about accepted that imperfect reality, he must have been flabbergasted when one of Scotland's brightest scrum-halfs, Mark McMillan of Glasgow, confirmed a move to Leeds, having been recommended by none other than the Glasgow captain and international flanker Cameron Mather.

As expected, Wasps have included Simon Shaw in the line-up for Sunday's Heineken Cup semi-final with Munster in Dublin. Shaw will be heavily strapped, having suffered a damaged spleen in an alleged stamping incident during last weekend's Premiership win at Leeds. Warren Gatland, the Wasps coach, accused the Yorkshire side's flanker, Colm Rigney, but Rugby Football Union officials who viewed video footage will not take any action.

Instead, they took Gatland to task for pointing his finger at Rigney. "We have established a procedure that includes the facility for individual clubs to ask the relevant citing officer to look at a particular incident," said Jeff Blackett, the union's disciplinary officer. "I would encourage all directors of rugby to use this facility, rather than raise issues through the media."

Both Wasps and Munster have retained the line-ups that started their respective quarter-finals against Gloucester and Stade Français. Sale, however, have made several changes for tonight's Premiership match with Newcastle - the team who beat them in last weekend's Cup final. The injured Jos Baxendell is replaced by Vaughan Going, while the scrum-half Nick Walshe and the lock Iain Fullarton, have given way to Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Day.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific