WRU and Welsh regions sign new £60m rugby agreement

Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins
The deal means Wales captain Sam Warburton is free to play for Cardiff Blues

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.

Gareth Anscombe
New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe has a Welsh mother

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."

Dan Biggar and Liam Williams
Dan Biggar and Liam Williams were on Wales' 2013 tour to Japan
Ken Owens
Hooker Ken Owens will captain Scarlets in 2014-15