Sam Warburton: Kingsley Jones doubts '16 game limit' issue

Sam Warburton
Warburton originally signed a central contract in in January, which was turned into a dual contract in September

Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Kingsley Jones doubts flanker Sam Warburton will feature in 16 Cardiff Blues games this season.

Blues director of rugby Mark Hammett said that Warburton, the first Welshman to sign a dual contract, can play a maximum of 16 games for them.

But Jones believes this limit will not be an issue.

"If Sam Warburton plays 16 games for the Blues, I'll eat my hat," said ex-Wales flanker and captain Jones.

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, with 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

"He has not played 16 games in the last three seasons.

"As far as I am concerned, if you are getting 16 quality games out of a player at that level, then that's all you expect.

"Players who make Lions tours play international series all of the time - that's all you are going to get out of them anyway, whether they are [dual] contracted or not."

Warburton had been the only player to take up a Welsh Rugby Union central contract, but his new deal means the WRU pays 60% of the deal and the region the remainder.

The 25-year-old played in the opening Pro12 game at Zebre and then the following week against Glasgow, while he has also been selected to play against Leinster on Friday in Dublin.

Dragons coach and ex-Wales captain Kingsley Jones
"If somebody makes the final and he's played all 16 games, I am sure common sense would prevail"

Assuming the Blues will want the open-side to play all six pool games in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup, that leaves just another seven games that he can play for his region.

Should the Blues qualify for the knock-out stages in Europe that would again cut into the number of Pro12 games Warburton will be available to play.

Jones made 10 Wales appearances from 1996 to 1998 and has gone on to coach at Sale, Gloucester, London Welsh and Russia.

Former Ebbw Vale and Pontypridd player Jones said he does not foresee a situation where a player would miss out on an important fixture because of the limit.

"I do not see it as an issue. I see it as a common sense discussion with the national coaches," said Jones.

"If somebody makes the final and he's played all 16 games, I am sure common sense would prevail."

Wales coach Gatland has still to reach a final decision on which other players will be offered dual contracts, with a figure of eight to 10 having been mooted.

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