Will Wales' England-based stars play in their Test against Australia?

George North
Northampton Saints wing George North has 62 caps for Wales

As Wales meet for their training camp ahead of their international schedule this autumn, there are doubts that some of their players will feature against Australia in their first Test.

Coach Rob Howley could be without George North and Jamie Roberts because of a dispute with Premiership Rugby - the body that represents England's top clubs.

How has this happened? BBC Wales Sport has broken down the current row over the release of England-based Wales internationals.

Will they be able to play?

On 18 October, Howley announced his 36-man squad and said he would have Roberts and North available to face Australia on 5 November. Taulupe Faletau was also selected but is injured and will not play against the Wallabies.

As the trio play in the English top flight, Premiership Rugby may punish their respective clubs for releasing them outside World Rugby's international window.

Northampton Saints' North, Harlequins' Roberts and Bath's Faletau are all wildcard picks under the Welsh Rugby Union's senior player selection policy - otherwise known as 'Gatland's Law' - which states only three players who play outside Wales can be picked.

Howley said the WRU "had no formal conversations with any of the English clubs" ahead of selecting his squad, but the players had informed him they could play.

Principality Stadium
The Principality Stadium in Cardiff will host Wales' autumn international games

Breaking the rules

World Rugby specifies an autumn international Test window - usually the second, third and fourth weekends in November - when matches can take place, but games are often scheduled outside the window, like Wales v Australia on 5 November.

England's game against the Wallabies on 3 December is also outside the window.

Regulation nine of World Rugby's handbook says players must be released when picked by their national team within a window.

Premiership Rugby has an agreement with the Rugby Football Union to release England players outside the window - but not non-English players.

North agreed a contract with Northampton after his move from Scarlets in 2013 which allowed him to be available for all Wales internationals but the Saints were fined £60,000 when North played in a match against Australia outside the international window.

He has since signed a new contract with the Saints.

Where do the clubs stand?

Jamie Roberts
Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts has played domestic rugby outside of Wales since 2013

Northampton Saints team manager Paul Shields said North would not be able to play against Australia and said the club could face a stiffer fine this time if North played outside the window.

"When we were doing George's contract at the time he was aware that the sanction this time was going to be fairly hefty and we as a club weren't prepared to take it on," Shields told BBC Radio Northampton.

A statement issued by Premiership Rugby said nothing had changed despite the WRU saying North and Roberts could play.

"Premiership Rugby has a long-standing policy to only release non-England players under the conditions of World Rugby's Regulation Nine. This regulation covers international release for every Test country across the world."

Speaking about the requests PRL received from international unions, John Kingston, director of rugby at Harlequins told The Times: "It is important that you try to play to the top level that you possibly can and we support that. That said, we know there are discussions and we have to see how those play out."

'Blackmailing' players

Gareth Delve
Former Wales back-row Gareth Delve joined Ospreys in 2015 after spending much of his domestic career playing in England, Australia and Japan

Former Wales international Gareth Delve, who has played most of his career outside Wales, says the WRU is working hard to make the Welsh regions attractive as opposed to teams in Europe and beyond.

"We want as strong a product as possible within Wales," the former Gloucester and Melbourne Rebels captain told BBC Wales Sport.

"As good as someone will get if they go to a Toulon, Stade Francais or the other side of the world, are you providing the best environment for them to become better players and to play in front of bigger crowds and win trophies [within Wales]? Then you can ask 'why are you leaving?'

"The likes of [WRU chairman] Gareth Davies and [WRU chief executive] Martin Philips are working towards that. They have said they want to create an environment where people want to stay because I don't think you can use the Wales jersey as a form of blackmail as I don't think it's fair."

Scarlets and Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies played down the situation, however.

"It's not really an issue that I have to deal with so it would be great to have all our players available as it's important," Davies told BBC Wales Sport.

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