Shane Williams urges local youngsters to remain in Wales

 

Shane Williams understands the attraction of big-money moves to France but has urged Wales' young stars to continue to ply their trade in the principality.

Welsh rugby has recently had to face the sobering sight of many of its best prospects heading to play in France.

Lee Byrne, James Hook and Mike Phillips moved across the Channel at the end of last season, while Luke Charteris, Gethin Jenkins, Aled Brew and Huw Bennett are among those leaving at the end of this campaign.

The Welsh regions are unable to compete with the financial might of the French clubs, and are to operate under a £3.5million salary cap from next season as they look to adapt to the difficulties of the current economic climate.

With Wales having recently won another RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam with young players like George North, Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate to the fore, there are fears that there will be a further drain on Welsh talent, with Cardiff Blues' wing Alex Cuthbert the latest to be reportedly weighing up a move to France.

Ospreys wing Williams, who will play his final match when the Barbarians face Wales in June, himself attracted the attention of French clubs during his illustrious career.

And while he understands the attractions of a move away, he wants to see the best Welsh talent remain in Wales, ensuring their availability for the national side.

Wales' record try scorer said: "There are massive financial benefits of going abroad but the last thing I want to do is encourage players to leave Wales.

"As a Welsh fan myself, I'd much prefer to see these boys playing in Wales, but current economic times don't help that.

"With Cuthbert, he's got a big rugby future ahead of him. Is it the time to go? I can't tell you that.

"I'm sure the figures the likes of Toulon and Racing Metro are chucking around at the moment are making it very difficult for the youngsters.

"It's very appealing and it's a big step from what they're earning at the moment. There's pros and cons with both.

"I wouldn't want to be one of these players who encourages youngsters to go abroad but you can't blame them either.

"I'd love to see them stay. I'd much rather see the likes of Cuthbert and these youngsters staying in Wales and playing for their regions, and then making it easier for them to play for their country.

"But that's almost an impossible feat at the moment because the French sides are chucking so much money at these youngsters. You really can't blame them for going."

North's devastating mix of power and pace means he is likely to attract the attentions of the likes of Toulon and Racing Metro, but the Scarlets wing has reiterated that he is committed to staying in Wales.

"I am happy where I am," he said. "I am contracted to the Scarlets for a couple of years and I can't see me leaving, I am enjoying my rugby in Wales.

"I can understand boys wanting to go to France. It's a short career and you want to make as much as you can but I am pretty happy with where I am."

PA

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