Welsh players' strike put on hold

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The Independent Online

The threatened strike by Wales players scheduled for their Six Nations' Championship match against England at Twickenham on Saturday has been put on temporary hold.

The Wales players did stick to their "strike" threat yesterday, but only in so far as they struck a deal with their clubs and the Welsh Rugby Union to honour the fixture. Crucially that depends on their demands for changes to the structure – competitive and financial – of the club game in Wales being approved at tonight's meeting of the WRU general committee.

The Wales captain, Scott Quinnell, said: "After the discussions between the Union, clubs and players over the past four days, we are encouraged that there now seems to be a basis of agreement on the way ahead and we look forward to this agreement being finalised by the General Committee.

"There has never been any self-interest in our actions, our only aim has been to try and secure the long-term future of the game in Wales. As a sign of good faith and in the belief that the Union will follow through with last week's decision, we are now looking forward to the international match against England at Twickenham on Saturday."

Those demands should now see the WRU agreeing to an élite professional club game in Wales, with just six clubs – Bridgend, Cardiff, Llanelli, Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea – at the top of the heap.

But there will be fierce resistance from the other 230-odd clubs in the Principality. On Friday night Ebbw Vale, one of three premier clubs left ostracised by the move (the others are Caerphilly and Neath), refused to admit the Newport owner, Tony Brown, to their ground, while on Saturday, the Caerphilly players spurned Llanelli's post-match hospitality as a protest.

The WRU is therefore under a lot of pressure from both sides and if they go back on any part of the agreement the implication is that the players will carry out their threat after all. They want commitment from the Union and the upshot is that England will probably not know who they will face until the Wales team trots out of the tunnel on Saturday.

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