Welsh regions turning into nurseries, says Emyr Lewis
Last updated on .From the section Rugby Union
Welsh regions are becoming nurseries for French and English clubs, according to former Wales forward Emyr Lewis.
An increasing number of Welsh-based players are leaving the regions, who are set to introduce a salary cap next season amid financial problems.
Gethin Jenkins and Luke Charteris are two Wales internationals following Mike Phillips and James Hook to France.
"All basically the regions are doing is breeding youngsters and breeding talent," said Lewis.
"English clubs and French clubs can then purchase them when they come up to a certain standard.
"[It's] very disappointing. Obviously there is a major financial problem and restraints on Welsh regions and the situation is only going to get worse."
The Welsh player drain to France began in earnest last season with Phillips, Hook and Lee Byrne all leaving Ospreys to join Bayonne, Perpignan and Clermont Auvergne respectively.
And since then Jenkins, Charteris, Aled Brew and Huw Bennett have all announced moves to Top 14 clubs.
The only Wales international, out of contract at the end of the 2011-12 season, so far bucking the trend is prop Adam Jones, who has signed a new two-year contract with the Ospreys.
But centre Jonathan Davies is expected to follow suit by signing a contract extension with the Scarlets despite interest from England.
Wales' four regions - Ospreys, Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons and Scarlets - are operating a £3.5m salary cap from next season.
Ospreys are currently being hit hardest. Wales hooker Bennett is joining Lyon,Ireland wing Tommy Bowe is poised to return Ulster, Scotland wing Nikki Walker is off to Worcester. and flanker Tom Smith has signed for London Irish.
Also, Shane Williams has brought forward his retirement by 12 months to quit at the end of this season, but Ospreys have held on to Wales tight-head prop Jones for two more seasons.
Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies as admitted his region is "in a battle" to field a competitive squad next season.
Dragons defence coach Robert Appleyard has added his voice to those saying Welsh teams cannot compete financially with their French counterparts - the Dragons will lose lock Charteris and wing Brew at the end of the season.
Likewise, Blues chairman Thomas says more player departures could be on the cards and skipper Paul Tito has predicted a "crash" for the Welsh regions.