Wales-England to go ahead in Six Nations after strike threat

Rugby

CARDIFF, Wales — – The Six Nations rugby match between Wales and England on Saturday will go ahead after potential strike action from Welsh players over a contract dispute was averted.

More than 100 players gathered at Wales’ training base on Wednesday to discuss a range of issues with members of the Professional Rugby Board. Among the players were many in the Wales squad out of contract at their regional teams at the end of this season.

Players were threatening to go on strike because of the failure of the Welsh Rugby Union and its four regions to reach agreement on a new six-year financial deal and the fact that no playing budgets had been finalized.

A compromise was reached between the WRU and Wales players on certain issues, meaning the game against England in Cardiff will go ahead. Having to call off the game would have cost the WRU around 9 million pounds ($10.8 million).

“We felt we had to make a stand,” Wales captain Ken Owens said, “but the conversations that have taken place over the last 10 days or so have shown that some positive resolutions can be found.”

Welsh rugby players were mostly unhappy they are being offered contracts that would see them receive 80% of their salary, with the remaining 20% comprising bonuses.

They also wanted Wales’ minimum 60-cap selection rule for players playing outside the country to be scrapped, and a voice at meetings of the PRB.

After talks on Wednesday, players will be free to play for Wales if they are based in another country if they have won 25 caps or more.

Players will also have the option of a fixed contract with their region or a fixed and variable deal.

“I understand totally the position the players were in,” acting WRU chief executive Nigel Walker said, “and we at the PRB shouldn’t have put them in that position.

“We are going to make sure we don’t get into this position again. There are a number of things we’ve got to do to ensure this dialogue continues every week and every month from here on in.”

Owens said Welsh rugby had turned into the “laughingstock.”

“Of course it has been a distraction with everything that has been going on,” the hooker said, “but I have got to commend the players’ professionalism in this.

“When we have crossed that white line at training, we’ve prepared well and done our work as professional players. We are really ready for Saturday, and looking forward to getting out there and going toe to toe with England.”

Wales coach Warren Gatland held off announcing his team on Tuesday, raising the threat of the match being called off. The team will now be announced Thursday.

Wales has lost the first two matches of the Six Nations – against Ireland then Scotland – for the first time in 16 years.

The Welsh haven’t started with three straight losses since 2003.

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