Cardiff Blues: Sam Warburton 'fittest he has ever been' - Hammett

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton has been capped 46 times by Wales

Cardiff Blues boss Mark Hammett says Sam Warburton is in the best shape of his career ahead of the new season.

The region's director of rugby says he expects a resolution to the Welsh rugby crisis - which prevents Wales captain Warburton from playing - this week.

The 25-year-old is the only player on a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).

Hammett said: "He [Warburton] is the fittest he's ever been, he's just fizzing to get back into it."

The four Welsh regions, represented by Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) have been in conflict with the WRU for almost two years over a new participation agreement, which covers crucial issues such as player availability and funding.

What is a central contract?
"A player's contract is held by the Union and not by his club, province or region. The Union, which pays his wages, can then determine where, when and even what position he plays. New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and Scotland all have their own variations of a central contract."

Their last deal ended in June 2014 and if a fresh settlement is not forthcoming the regions claim they face a combined £6.7m shortfall going into the 2014-15 season.

Until this is resolved, the flanker is unable to play for the Blues. RRW said in July that it has a "legally-binding agreement" that stops them selecting players on a central contract.

Hammett, who joined the Blues in May, said he has been told the conflict will be resolved this week, adding that his team have not been affected by these off-field problems.

"I certainly haven't seen any reflection of negativity from that side of it coming to the playing squad or training," said Hammett.

If a new deal can be reached this week, Warburton could be in line to play in the Blues' opening Pro12 fixture away to Zebre on 7 September.

The Blues play their final pre-season match against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on 29 August.

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