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Dublin: 16 °C Monday 3 August, 2020

Welsh rugby moves closer to Irish system with 12 dual contract offers

Dan Lydiate is among the Welsh players currently considering one of the new national deals.

Dan Lydiate (left) is one of 12 Welsh players considering a dual contract.
Dan Lydiate (left) is one of 12 Welsh players considering a dual contract.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WALES FLANKER DAN Lydiate is one of 12 players considering a new national dual contract offer from the Welsh Rugby Union.

After months of bitter wrangling, the WRU and Wales’ four professional regions agreed on a way forward for the club game in the Principality in September.

Other players including Liam Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, and Scott Williams have also been offered contracts under the new terms, according to BBC Sport.

Wales captain Sam Warburton already has such a dual contract, with the aim to ensure other leading players stay at home and play for one of the regions while pursuing their international careers.

Lucrative offers from clubs in France and England led to a talent drain at regional level, with the likes of Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Lydiate leaving the Welsh club game.

But in Lydiate’s case the move didn’t work out as planned, with the back-row starting just two matches in France’s Top 14 for Racing Metro this season after joining the Paris-based club from Newport Gwent Dragons at the start of the previous European campaign.

Lydiate, selected by Wales coach Warren Gatland for Saturday’s clash against world champions New Zealand at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, left Racing last month, fearing a lack of game time was damaging his hopes of playing at next year’s World Cup in England.

The 26-year-old, capped 39 times by Wales, is currently unattached to any club.

Rugby Union - Dove Men Series 2014 - Wales v Australia - Milliennium Stadium Sam Warburton is already on a dual contract. Source: Joe Giddens

“National dual contracts will help us keep international class talent here in Wales available for regional rugby and for international selection,” said WRU chief executive Roger Lewis.

“Dan Lydiate suddenly became available while Warren was preparing his list of national dual contract candidates, which offered us the opportunity to bring a key international player back to Wales.”

The new deals are funded 60% by the WRU and 40% by the four Welsh professional regions, with £3.3 million (€4.1 million) in total available for spending on the contracts.

They are the result of a new six-year rugby services agreement produced after protracted talks between the WRU and Pro Rugby Wales, the umbrella organisation for the four regional sides — Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets.

Any player on a national dual contract will remain in Wales with a region where their development and welfare can be monitored by me and my national squad coaches, conditioners and medical staff,” Gatland said.

“In particular I would really like to thank the regions for their help in facilitating Dan Lydiate’s return to Wales,” the New Zealander added.

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“It wasn’t something that we had envisaged so early or budgeted for so I would like to thank them for their help,” said Gatland, who selected Lydiate for all three Tests while coaching the British and Irish Lions on their victorious tour of Australia last year.

“The aim of the contracts is to stem the flow of our best talent abroad and to ensure the players staying in Wales will have the very best care to prolong their careers at the highest level,” said former Ireland coach Gatland, who has long criticised the fitness levels of Welsh stars at French clubs.

These new dual contracts align Welsh rugby with the system that has allowed Ireland to keep its top players at home in recent seasons. The IRFU’s central contracting system ties players down to both the national team and one of the four Irish provinces.

- © AFP, 2014

- Additional reporting by

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