Welsh players look to union in face of uncertain future

It may be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted – or, in rugby terms, shoring up the blind-side after the scrum-half has disappeared into the distance – but the good and honest players of Wales are finally thinking of getting themselves unionised.

Deeply concerned that the best part of 200 full-time jobs could disappear by the start of next season, club professionals from Llanelli in the west to Newport in the east plan to band together over the next fortnight and launch an association along the lines of the one that has been operating in England for several years.

One brief meeting has already been held, prompted by Welsh Rugby Union proposals to cut the number of élite sides from nine to four along provincial lines. Most of those nine have the best part of 40 players on their books – all of them nominated squads of between 32 and 34 players for this season's European tournaments – and as a four-team format would restrict full-time contracts to a maximum of 140 and probably less, the urgency of the situation could hardly be greater.

There has been no formal contact between the Welsh players and the Professional Rugby Players' Association in England, but Damian Hopley, the chief executive of the PRA, acknowledged yesterday that he had "heard rumblings of activity" on the far side of the Severn. Another pressure group, the European Clubs' Association, has declared its opposition to any move towards a provincial set-up in Wales and is prepared to stand alongside the great clubs of the principality – Llanelli, Cardiff and the rest – as they fight for their professional futures.

If David Moffett, the new chief executive of the WRU, gets his way – and he is nobody's idea of a political pushover – Wales will go provincial in September. The Celtic League will be a 10-team competition, with the newly-constituted Welsh quartet joined by three sides each from Ireland and Scotland. The same teams will compete in the Heineken Cup. It is not yet clear how this would affect the second-tier Parker Pen competition, which could become unviable in the absence of Welsh participants.

The contractual complications of such a move are considerable. Newport, for example, have just recruited Percy Montgomery, the former Springbok back, on big money; John Connolly, the respected Australian coach, is in the first year of a two-year deal with Swansea; half the Canadian pack plays club rugby in Wales (Canada, disadvantaged enough, would be seriouslyweakened if their internationals were unable to find employment in Europe) and a dozen Tongan Test players also earn livings in and around the valleys. None would find a home in a provincial set-up designed to encourage Welsh talent alone.

The WRU, so spectacularly broke that it is considering withdrawing from the forthcoming Six Nations A tournament, could expect to be submerged by compensation claims.

In the English Premiership, the Leeds scrum-half Scott Benton is hoping to be named in Phil Davies' 22-man squad for Friday night's match with Bath at Headingley. Benton missed the start of the season with a back injury and then fractured an ankle after eight minutes of his comeback appearance against the Italian club Petrarca Padova.

Derek Hegarty and Alan Dickens have operated at the base of the Leeds pack in Benton's absence, but the Yorkshiremen have missed the former Gloucester half-back's scoring ability, reflected by his strike rate of 30 tries in 76 appearances.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police