Gareth Jenkins calls for WRU and regions to halt player exodus

Scarlets Gareth Jenkins
Scarlets Gareth Jenkins

Former Wales coach Gareth Jenkins has called on the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions to work together to staunch the flow of top players from the country.

The Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies has signed for French club Clermont Auvergne next season.

Davies, 25, is the latest to join a list of players moving to France which includes Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate.

"Welsh player retention has to be a priority," said Jenkins, the Scarlets' head of development and recruitment.

"Currently [there is not] enough discussion."

The WRU announced in June it would make £1 million available to help keep international players in Wales.

The four Welsh professional regions - the Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Newport Gwent Dragons - have been hit by a series of high-profile departures.

British and Irish Lions Roberts, Lydiate and George North, all left the Welsh regions at the end of the 2012-13 season.

A WRU claimed the £1m was to "target the development, recruitment and retention of Welsh international players", but there has been no announcement regarding how that money would be spent.

Davies is among a long list of Wales international players whose contracts end in the next 12 months.

Wales captain Sam Warburton has already stated his "preferred option" is to stay in Wales with the Cardiff Blues.

Warburton's Blues team-mate Leigh Halfpenny, and the Ospreys trio of Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Jones and Ian Evans could all be big-money targets for clubs outside Wales.

Jenkins stresses his views are his own and not that of the Scarlets region, but says there needs to be a "quality partnership" between the regions and the WRU.

" I really do feel that the relationship currently between the regions and the WRU needs to be much better," Jenkins said.

"There isn't a realisation of how important a quality partnership is for us to have a sustainable product.

"There is a lot of conflict, there is a lot of different opinions, there are a lot of people accusing lots of people about who is right and who is wrong.

"We are losing sight of the big issue, which is long term sustainability.

"It has to be about making Welsh rugby comfortable in its long term player retention in Wales."

Jenkins, who coached Wales between 2006 and 2007 before being dismissed after the World Cup in France, says he understands why Davies has signed for a French club.

"Jon has become recognised as one of the world's great players," said Jenkins.

"That in itself is a big statement in what we do, and we are full of pride in Jon's success, having come through local rugby.

"It is very difficult in the modern game to create environments that can keep players like Jon, particularly in Wales, with the type of restraint we have on our playing budgets.

"France at the moment is a threat, not just to European rugby, but world rugby.

"They have budgets that want the best players in the world playing in France in their top teams.

"They are succeeding, not only to get Welsh players, but players from all over the globe.

"Jon has identified his ambition is play in a final or to win an European Cup, and that is understandable."