Peace finally breaks out in ugly Welsh war

WRU and Welsh regions sign new £60m agreement

Rugby Union Correspondent

The bickering and backbiting is over, the signatures are on the dotted line – presumably in triplicate, for the avoidance of doubt – and Sam Warburton, the much put-upon  captain of Wales, finally gets to play a game for his home-town club, who have spent the last few weeks refusing to select him on principle.

Rugby on the far side of the Severn has not seen a day like it since the fabled Viet Gwent, otherwise known as the Pontypool front row, last packed down together with the smell of English blood in their nostrils.

After months of bitter boardroom argument over the precise terms of the relationship between the Welsh Rugby Union and its impoverished regional teams – Cardiff Blues, Newport-Gwent Dragons, the  Swansea-based Ospreys and the Llanelli-based Scarlets – the two factions have settled on a new Rugby Services Agreement that carries £60m of central funding over the next six years: around £2.2m per club per season, plus access to guaranteed loan facilities and a £500,000 payment to each of the four by way of an introductory offer.

In return, the governing body will take ownership of an unspecified number of leading Test players by signing them on dual contracts.

There are a number of intriguing aspects to what Roger Lewis, the chief executive of the WRU, called a “ground-breaking deal designed to allow both our national team and our regional sides to flourish”: a limit of six overseas players on each region’s books, plus two “time-servers” who intend to qualify for Wales through  residency; re-establishment of a second-string Wales A team; and a likely move to 13 full Test matches per year – a determined attempt to swell the union coffers by making the Millennium Stadium sweat like a sauna attendant.

But the most striking clause concerns international  players who choose to move away from Wales: in future, those signing for teams  outside the country will be ineligible for selection.

Warren Gatland, the head coach, will be permitted to make exceptions, but the emphasis is clearly on “picking from home” – a development that will be of serious concern to a number of big names, including the full-back Leigh Halfpenny, the wing George North, centres Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts, hooker Richard Hibbard and flanker Dan Lydiate, all of whom  currently earn their money in England or France. They will face awkward decisions when their present deals expire.

Warburton will be particularly relieved at the outbreak of peace. As the only player in Wales to sign one of the half-dozen central contracts offered by the WRU at the height of the ruckus, the flanker was cast as a political football in human form, with Cardiff Blues sticking rigidly to an all-region agreement not to select anyone committing such an act. Now, he may return to action as early as tonight, when the Blues play a pre-season friendly against Leicester at Welford Road.

Lewis, who has been  heavily criticised during the prolonged impasse, said the deal ticked all the important boxes, stating that “the financial ambitions of the regions have been met, as have the objectives of the WRU”.

Among the regions, who have slipped well behind the Irish provinces as well as the big-spending clubs in England and France, there was satisfaction at the promise of greater financial certainty.

“Things will not change overnight, but clear mutual goals now form the basis of an agreement that will  create a stronger and more  productive environment, where interests are more closely aligned,” said Nigel Short, the chairman of Regional Rugby Wales. “A thriving domestic game feeds into the success of Welsh international rugby and we can plan with more focus.”

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick