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Wales captain Sam Warburton becomes first player to sign central contract

The WRU have followed the lead of their Irish counterparts to snap up their captain.

Sam warburton (left) and Kelly Brown were in good form at the Six Nations launch.
Sam warburton (left) and Kelly Brown were in good form at the Six Nations launch.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

WALES CAPTAIN SAM WARBURTON made history today by becoming the first of his country’s players to become centrally contracted to the WRU.

Warburton, who led Wales to Six Nations success in 2012 and 2013, as well as the Lions, signed up with his union today and expressed his delight at the deal.

The WRU now control Warburton’s playing contract and have released him back to his club, Cardiff Blues, free of charge. His salary will be paid by the union. The central contract is similar to the scheme operated by the IRFU. The union will be hoping that their increased financial clout — over that of the struggling Welsh regions — will encourage other Welsh players to stay on in the country.

Warburton said, “Now that my future is secured within Wales I look forward to focusing on the Six Nations and beyond.”

WRU group chief executive, Roger Lewis, commented, “We have been able to strike a deal which ensures the Welsh captain will continue to play his rugby at the highest level here in Wales.” He added:

Welsh rugby together cannot stand back any longer and watch its best players leave Wales. We all have to act together and act now in the best interests of the game.”

The central contract introduction was not enough to convince Warburton’s teammate Leigh Halfpenny from signing up with Top 14 side Toulon for next season. Ospreys secured the playing services of lock Alun-Wyn Jones earlier this week and fullback Lee Byrne is to join Newport Gwent Dragons from Clermont during the summer.

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Patrick McCarry

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