WRU and regions deal will keep players in Wales - Martyn Williams

Jamie Roberts
Racing Metro boast four Wales internationals - Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate, Mike Phillips and Luke Charteris

Former Wales flanker Martyn Williams says the £60m deal between the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the regions will keep top players in the domestic game.

The WRU and the four regions agreed the six-year deal on Thursday.

Williams says he has spoken to players who would have stayed in Wales "if this agreement was announced last December."

Meanwhile, former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies has expressed concern about the damage done in the time it took for an agreement to be reached.

As part of the new deal, each of the regions - Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and Ospreys - will be able to sign only six non-Welsh qualified players.

Home-based players will also be preferred to those playing their club rugby elsewhere when it comes to picking the national side, but Wales coach Warren Gatland can make exceptions.

The agreement also means British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton can play for Cardiff Blues.

Prior to the deal being struck, Warburton was not eligible to be picked for his region having signed a central contract with the WRU in January.

Davies said: "There's not much more on the table than there was 18 months ago and how detrimental that 18 months has been to Welsh rugby - those people have to live with it.

"A lot of players have gone and the regions have suffered.

"I'm delighted that the focus now is on rugby and on the playing, not on the politics and the embarrassment globally we've had to put up with."

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

One of the major issues facing Welsh rugby in recent years is the number of players leaving for clubs in England and France.

Williams, who played 100 times for Wales and was a British and Irish Lion, said he does not begrudge Welsh players going to France, but is "frustrated" when they leave for English clubs.

"The numbers being offered in France - we're going to lose one or two players, there's no doubt about that and that's understandable," said Williams.

"The one I get frustrated with is seeing is the boys going to Bath and Gloucester.

"We shouldn't be losing quality player like Paul James,Richard Hibbard and James Hook to these kinds of clubs so I think it [the new deal] will keep players here."

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