Wales captain Sam Warburton to return hours after peace deal

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton has not played since being injured against Scotland in the 2014 Six Nations

Wales captain Sam Warburton is in line to make his playing return less than 24 hours after a new Welsh rugby peace deal was agreed.

The flanker has been named in Cardiff Blues' squad for Friday's friendly at Leicester Tigers.

Before the £60m agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and four Welsh rugby regions, Warburton was left in limbo.

The regions were "legally" unable to select players on a central contract.

The new deal, called the Rugby Services Agreement that will run until 2020, means a minimum of six key home-based internationals will be on dual WRU-regions contracts.

Wales coach Warren Gatland will 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%.

As part of the new six-year deal, each of the regions - Newport Gwent Dragons, Blues, Scarlets and Ospreys - will be able to sign only six non-Wales 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 Gatland can make exceptions.

It is hoped the new deal will help keep star players such as Warburton in Wales.

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

In recent years many Welsh internationals have left to play for clubs in England and France.

British & Irish Lions Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips are among those Welsh players to leave to play in the French Top 14.

Warburton, 25, was also in demand but wanted to stay in Wales.

In January he became the first and only player to sign a central contract before Thursday's agreement.

With the conflict between the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) still rumbling on, it meant the 2013 Lions skipper was unable to play for the Blues with the 2014-15 season fast approaching.

Another player caught in the cross-fire of the Welsh rugby row was Wales and Lions prop Adam Jones.

He left Ospreys at the end of last season and had been expected to rejoin them.

But the Swansea-based club said any new deal for Jones was "dependent" on a resolution to the stand-off between the Union and regions.

Jones, who has won 95 caps for Wales, was forced to prepare for the new season alone and recently trained with former club Neathexternal-link before signing for the Blues.

The 33-year-old has also been named in the Blues squad for Friday's match at Welford Road.