Wales’ Six Nations match against England in Cardiff on Saturday will go ahead after a potential strike by Welsh players over a contract dispute was averted, captain Ken Owens has announced.
The team initially delayed their squad announcement ahead of the upcoming Six Nations fixture with England due to uncertainty over player involvement. Wales’ professional rugby players had been threatening to take strike action, throwing the upcoming match into huge doubt.
But after a lengthy meeting between the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association officials and players on Wednesday afternoon, Welsh Rugby Union acting chief executive Nigel Walker said the contract freeze would be lifted next week, Wales Online reports. Walker also confirmed that a controversial 60-cap law would be lowered to 25.
The news comes after a long running dispute between Welsh players and Wales Rugby Union. But why were the Wales players threatening strike action? Here is everything you need to know.
Why were Welsh rugby players threatening strike action?
Wales’ professional rugby players were considering taking strike action against the Welsh Rugby Union due to contractual concerns.
Talks had been ongoing between the governing body and the country’s four regions over a new budgetary deal, but until Wednesday’s meeting, no agreement has been made. This generated a huge sense of uncertainty for players and their families who had been unable to sign new contracts with their existing clubs.
In addition to this the situation had been magnified with recruitment being put on hold for Wales’ for professional regions of Cardiff, Ospreys, Dragons and Scarlets.
What has been said?
Wales rugby captain Ken Owens said the players are now satisfied following the discussions with Wales’s rugby union. Owen added that the team are looking forward to going toe-to-toe against England.
Owens said: “It has been very tough. It has been a difficult period over the last 18 months and hopefully we don’t end up here again.
“One thing I can say from a players point of view is it has been very tough, but we have prepared as we would for any test match, and we are looking forward to getting out on Saturday and going toe-to-toe against England.”
Welsh Rugby Union acting chief executive, Nigel Walker said: “We have had some robust conversations over the last week.
“We as the PRB shouldn’t have put them (players) in that position but there will be a number of things that will be put in place to ensure that this dialogue continues.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland admitted earlier this week that he was unaware of the issues being faced at Welsh rugby when he took the job.
Gatland took charge of Wales for a second time in December 2022. He said: “I wasn’t aware of any of the issues going on when I took the job. I wish I would have known a few things that were going on.
“It has been a challenge but it is what it is, you have to take it on the chin.”
A number of accounts by unnamed players on the lack of a new funding were reported by the Daily Mail earlier in the tournament on Tuesday 14 February.
One player from the Six Nations squad said: “I can’t apply for a mortgage and I’m on antidepressants. I’m also one big injury away from not having a job in July, yet I’m starting for Wales every week and the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) is making tens of millions from international matches.”
An unnamed Welsh player, currently playing in England echoed the concerns. He said: “I never want to come back and play in Wales. I have learnt so much where I am. I am valued and I’m really enjoying my rugby. I feel so worried for the boys in the Wales camp. They are constantly stressed discussing the contracting problem.
“The WRU have blood on their hands if any of the boys get injured. They are saying the regions are too scared to say anything as the WRU might stop their payments and rip this deal up.”
Ex-Wales lock Andrew Coombs tweeted: “Players should not be playing without a signed contract in front of them. One big injury and they will be jobless with no medical support! I know that feeling well and would not wish it on any other player.”