Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton signs first ever Welsh Rugby Union central contract

Warburton will be released to play for Cardiff Blues at no cost and comes in a week that Alun Wyn Jones also chose to remain in Wales

Captain Sam Warburton has become the first Wales player to sign a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union.

The 25-year-old flanker, who skippered the British & Irish Lions to glory in Australia last summer, was due to be out of contract with the Cardiff Blues in the summer.

There were fears he would join the growing exodus out of the Welsh domestic game, but he will remain in Wales after agreeing terms on a "national contract" with the union.

In a WRU statement, Warburton said: "I am delighted to commit my future to Welsh rugby. I would like to thank the WRU for its commitment to me.

"I also want to take this opportunity to thank my agent, Derwyn Jones, who has supported and mentored me from a young age and always had my best interests at heart."

The WRU intends to release Warburton to continue to play for the Blues, at no cost to the region, while he will be available for all Wales duty, although he will not be guaranteed a place in Warren Gatland's squad.

The issue of how to keep the best Welsh talent in Wales is part of the current dispute between the unions and the regions over the future of the domestic game, while the impasse over the future of the Heineken Cup has led the regions to ponder splitting from the union and joining an expanded Aviva Premiership.

The WRU previously wanted to offer winger George North, now at Northampton, a deal to remain in Wales, only to discover the regions had an agreement not to field a centrally-contracted player.

The Cardiff Blues have yet to respond to the news of Warburton's deal; on Friday chief executive Richard Holland said they had made the back-rower the best offer they could.

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: "We have been able to strike a deal which ensures the Welsh captain will continue to play his rugby at the highest level here in Wales.

"I am extremely grateful to the Cardiff Blues Chairman, Peter Thomas for his understanding when the WRU Chairman and I met him on Wednesday to outline this proposed plan.

"Welsh rugby together cannot stand back any longer and watch its best players leave Wales. We all have to act together and act now in the best interests of the game.

"There can be no better message to current and future internationals than the decision of Sam Warburton to become the first senior player to sign a WRU National Contract and commit to regional rugby and international rugby in Wales.

"This is all about us working together in the best interests of rugby in Wales and I am sure this will be remembered as an important moment for rugby in Wales."

Earlier this week Warburton's Blues team-mate Leigh Halfpenny agreed to join Toulon, while second-row Alun Wyn Jones elected to stay with the Ospreys.

The WRU is also hopeful of concluding a new participation agreement with the regions, and of a resolution to the saga over the European game.

The statement continued: "Negotiations are progressing between the WRU and all four Regions towards agreeing a new Rugby Services Agreement and the six nations meetings over European rugby competitions continue in a positive fashion with further discussions planned for Monday."

 

PA

Suggested Topics
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker