WRU and Welsh regions sign new £60m rugby agreement
The Welsh Rugby Union and the four Welsh regions have signed a new £60m deal aimed at keeping star players in Wales and ending nearly two years of a fraught dispute.
The agreement, until 2020, means a minimum of six key home-based internationals will be on dual WRU-regions contracts.
Players based outside Wales could also be overlooked in favour of home-based talent with coach Warren Gatland tightening selection policy.
Each of the regions - Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - will be able to sign only six non-Welsh qualified players.
In recent years, the regions have seen an exodus of Welsh Test players to clubs in England and France.
|The stars who might be offered WRU-regions contracts|
|Ospreys lock Alun Wyn Jones|
|Dragons number eight Taulupe Faletau|
|Blues prop Gethin Jenkins|
|Scarlets hooker Ken Owens|
|Blues utility back Gareth Anscombe|
|WRU employee Sam Warburton|
|Blues wing Alex Cuthbert|
|Scarlets centre Scott Williams|
|Scarlets back-three player Liam Williams|
|Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar|
The agreement means British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton will now be able to resume club duties for Cardiff Blues, and is likely to feature in the pre-season friendly against Leicester this weekend.
The new selection policy rules that no player based overseas can represent Wales, although Gatland is able to make exceptions.
Players currently based outside Wales will be exempt from the new selection rules while their contracts run.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said of the revamped selection criteria: "We have to judge things case-by-case - we have got to play fair."
Gatland will also decide which players will be offered dual contracts, with the WRU contributing 60% funding for those new deals with star players, and the regions the remaining 40%.
The regions will all receive a shared £2m increase in overall funding, to £8.7m, from the union as well as a one-off payment of £500,000.
Amongst the other terms of the agreement, there will be a return of the Wales A side in 2015 after a gap of 13 years.
|Key points of the new deal|
|WRU increases regions' funding from £6.7m to £8.7m|
|Top home-based Test stars to be offered dual-contracts|
|Wales coach Warren Gatland to decide who is offered dual deals, those players to become WRU employees|
|Home-based players to be favoured in Wales selection|
|The £8.7m includes £2m set aside for dual contracts, with regions adding another £1.3m a year|
|Wales A games to return from January, 2015|
Lewis said: "The new contracts will help us keep more of our best players in Wales and will help stem the flow abroad of the talent we develop here."
Nigel Short, chairman of umbrella body Regional Rugby Wales, said the agreement was a positive step forward, with plenty of hard work still to be done.
He added: "With greater clarity and the security of a new agreement, the regions can forward plan with more focus, working hard to ensure their independent businesses remain competitive.
"Things will not change overnight - but securing our new agreement in partnership is a positive forward step."