Wales victims of World Cup success, says Gareth Llewellyn

Luke Charteris, Lee Byrne and Aled Brew
Luke Charteris, Lee Byrne and Aled Brew during the 2011 World Cup

Ex-Wales captain Gareth Llewellyn says Welsh rugby is in danger of becoming a victim of its success at the World Cup.

Only one of Wales' leading players, Luke Charteris, has so far confirmed he will leave Welsh rugby for a big-money move at the end of this season.

But Llewellyn says the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Priestland and George North could all become targets.

"George North is a superstar, so he's going to attract real big money from everywhere," said Llewellyn.

"Our academies, which were set up in 2003 with the advent of regionalism, are now starting to produce your Norths and Scott Williamses.

"We are producing really good rugby athletes at 20 to 21-years-old and rightly, I guess, they are attracting the attentions of the bigger clubs in Europe.

"We're becoming a little bit of a victim of our little bit of success at the World Cup, aren't we?"

Wales reached the semi-finals at the 2011 World Cup and their success provided the shop window for Charteris, who is a reported target for French club Perpignan, an unnamed Japanese side and a Super 15 outfit.

In the wake of the lock's announcement that he will leave Newport Gwent Dragons at the end of the season, their chairman Martyn Hazell called for the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to provide more money if they want the nation's biggest names to remain in the country.

That could boost Wales coach Warren Gatland's hopes of ensuring players remain available for all Wales' training and playing commitments.

The four Welsh regions - Cardiff Blues, the Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - are all obligated to release their players for Wales duty, including for games and training camps that fall outside the International Rugby Board's Test windows.

Gatland has already warned France-based British and Irish Lions Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne and James Hook, as well as Exeter prop Craig Mitchell and Sale's Andy Powell, that they face being overlooked for the 2012 Six Nations.

There have been similar calls to that of Hazell from Cardiff Blues coach Gareth Baber and Ospreys' coaching director Scott Johnson, while the possibility of the WRU introducing central contracts for players is also being debated.

Watkins understands players moving

And the Scarlets have expressed fears about the "vultures" targeting rising stars such as teenage wing North, fly-half Priestland and centres Jonathan Davies and Williams.

"I don't know [if central contracts are] the answer," said Llewellyn, who played for Neath, Harlequins, Ospreys, Narbonne and Bristol during his career.

"To a certain extent sometimes we have to hold our hands up and say 'we're going to lose some players, we can't keep all of them'.

"We all want to see our regions successful in Europe so we can't afford to lose a lot of players.

"Whether the union can step in and assist... how that would work I'm not really sure.

"There's a little part of me, as someone who played in England and France, that says 'do you know what guys, there's a big world out there and I wouldn't like to see you play your whole career in Wales; there's lots of great opportunities in rugby'.

"There's a huge life experience to have as well. It's not just about earning money."

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