Regional Rugby Wales has accused the Welsh Rugby Union chief executive of “overseeing the decline of Welsh rugby outside the international tier” as relations between the two bodies threaten to break down.
RRW – who represent the Ospreys, Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues – are angry at plans by Welsh rugby’s governing body to introduce central contracts and push through a a new Professional Game Board without them, or an independent chairman with a casting vote – which goes against an understanding signed last year, they claim.
The latest spat was sparked by George North’s proposed move from Scarlets to Northampton. On Sunday, the WRU asserted it had offered to keep the wing in Wales by tying him to a central contract, only to discover the regions had an agreement in place not to field any player contracted to the union.
The governing body then invited the regions to discuss central contracts – which they consider to be a possible solution to the drain of Welsh talent to French and English clubs – but yesterday the RRW dismissed the idea out of hand, describing central contracts as a “knee-jerk reaction”.
RRW also pointed out that the idea was not backed by last year’s independent report into the state of the regions by the London firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In a statement, RRW said central contracts “would not address the key fundamental issues facing Welsh rugby as a whole” and “will not help nurture the whole game in Wales including community rugby and the important role that our clubs play in helping develop young talent for Wales.”
RRW also called for an independent arbitrator to be appointed to rule in the dispute over the Professional Regional Game Board and said they will now only hold discussions with the WRU through the originally proposed (though still to be set up) PRGB . “We do not want to be part of something that is not transparent or democratic,” the statement added.
It continued: “The WRU has chosen to ignore our pleas for rational debate and the WRU chief executive [Roger Lewis] has been prepared to oversee the decline of Welsh rugby outside the international tier.”