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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project