Rhys Webb 'heartbroken' over Wales policy, but will not renege on Toulon move

Rhys Webb
Rhys Webb made his Wales debut against Italy in the 2012 Six Nations

"Heartbroken" Rhys Webb says he will not change his decision to join Toulon in 2018 - even though it means he will not be eligible to play for Wales.

A Welsh Rugby Union rule change means players taking up a new deal with a team outside Wales must have won 60 caps to be able to play Test rugby.

Scrum-half Webb, capped 28 times, says it is a "disgrace" he was not warned the policy change was a possibility.

"I don't know how long it's going to take me to get over it," said Webb, 28.

"It's a joke. I'm disappointed. Representing your country means so much to me and being told I won't be able to play for them is heartbreaking."

'No-one mentioned it was going to change'

Webb's decision to leave Ospreys at the end of the season was announced on 10 October.

The British and Irish Lions player has signed a three-year deal with Toulon.

At the time, the Top 14 side said Webb would continue playing for his country as "a fair deal has been found in good faith with regard to its national selection in the interest of both parties".

But the WRU this week announced a major change to its senior international selection policy for players based outside Wales.

The previous policy, known as 'Gatland's Law', meant head coach Warren Gatland could pick only four players from clubs outside Wales, though there were caveats.

That quota was due to drop to two wildcard picks for the 2019-20 season.

Webb said: "I made my mind up on the basis that the policy was the wildcard system. No-one had mentioned it was going to change.

"I signed for Toulon on the basis if I was playing well I could still be considered. It was still such a tough decision. I felt I had to speak to the Ospreys face to face. It was heartbreaking to tell them.

"No-one had told me [about the policy change]. Not even the Ospreys had mentioned in when I went to see them."

Webb says he contacted Gatland after his move to three-time European champions Toulon was announced, and they later discussed the switch.

"He explained there could be a new system in place," said Webb. "He didn't say there was or there is, just talks about it potentially happening."

'I felt I was being devalued'

Webb is in the last season of a national dual contract. The WRU pays 60% of his salary and Ospreys the rest.

He said the WRU offered him a contract extension that did not meet his expectations.

"I listened to the offer from the WRU and I didn't feel they were valuing me with the right offer. I felt I was being devalued," he said.

"The Toulon offer was one I couldn't turn down. It was a dream come true to play for a club like that. Their history in European rugby speaks for itself.

"These chances don't come round often."

'I'm very disappointed with Welsh rugby'

Webb says since the WRU policy change was announced, no-one from the Welsh governing body or Ospreys has explained how the new rules apply to him.

"I probably would have liked someone to come and explain to me how I'd been captured," he said.

"It's baffling. I'm very disappointed with Welsh rugby right now."

BBC Sport Wales asked Webb if, as Gatland has suggested, he could try to opt out of moving to Toulon.

He replied: "I won't be doing that. My future lies in Toulon."

Webb was also asked what he would have done if the 60-cap rule had been in place before he signed.

"I just know playing for Wales is why you play the game," he said.

"Being picked for Wales is still a dream now. To know that won't be happening again is hurtful, it's genuinely just upsetting."

The WRU had been asked to respond, but declined to do so, saying in a statement: "Thanks for the opportunity [to reply], but we are happy that we have discussed the WRU's position in full on this subject already in the open media forum held earlier this week."

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