Lawrence Dallaglio backs Wales players as he relives going on strike in England dispute
Lawrence Dallaglio has thrown his support behind Wales’ players in the tense stand-off that has thrown Saturday’s Six Nations clash with England into doubt.
Welsh players met with WRU bosses on Wednesday afternoon for crunch talks aimed at ending the dispute over new contracts and playing budgets for the four regional sides.
World Cup-winner Dallaglio was among the England players who went on strike in November 2000, in a dispute on match fees.
The walkout lasted 72 hours and England returned to defeat Argentina 19-0 at Twickenham, but Wasps great Dallaglio admitted the recriminations took their toll on the players.
“I’m with the players, because I genuinely believe that they wouldn’t be making a stand like this without very, very good reason,” Dallaglio told Standard Sport.
“They want to play rugby. None of us wanted to go on strike, but it was a point of principle.
“People like myself, Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, that was a huge, huge thing to do. And I’ve no doubt that the likes of Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones are in exactly the same position.
“Withdrawing your labour is a last resort and it’s not something you want to do. We certainly didn’t want to do it; it came down to a point of principle for us.
“We left a meeting having agreed one thing and then we were given the contracts they said something completely different. Ultimately we got to where we wanted to be, the game went ahead and we won.
“I’ll never forget Clive Woodward saying to us as a group, ‘Listen, if you don’t get what you want you should just go on strike’. We repeated that back to him a little while later as we went on strike, and he famously said, ‘I didn’t say that’.
“Anyway, he was in an invidious position, just like Warren Gatland now. He wants to show he supports the players wholeheartedly, and behind closed doors I’m sure that’s what he’s said to the group. But he is an employee of the other side as well.
“I’ll chalk that down to experience, but I certainly wouldn’t want to go through it again. And I do sympathise with the players in Wales because the game itself is going through a lot of problems and issues, and Wales is no exception.”
Wales’ Cardiff clash with England this weekend remains in the balance, with showdown meetings taking place today aimed at brokering enough peace for the Principality Stadium match to go ahead.
I’d like to think this will be resolved now and the game will go ahead.
The WRU has been unable to agree funding on a six-year deal for the four regions’ playing budgets, to come into force next season. That has left as many as 90 players still out of contract this summer and their careers in total limbo.
The WRU should have been able to ratify all this well before the end of 2022, and players have cracked under the strain. The players want a seat on the union’s Professional Game Board, a removal of the 60-cap Test selection minimum for overseas-based players and a scrapping of a proposed performance-based percentage of the new contract structure.
Head coach Warren Gatland delayed naming his team yesterday and even cancelled afternoon training to allow for more crunch talks only for those to fail to yield a breakthrough.
England’s striking players were sent home from their Bagshot base in 2000, with some impromptu arrangements then put into place.
“We were sent home at one point, though I don’t think Jonny went back to Newcastle for instance,” said Dallaglio. “I think I might even have taken a few home with me.
“It was a pretty difficult time for everyone. Individually you’ve got your own views, but you also want to stay united as a group. And that’s quite difficult.
“I’d like to think this will still be resolved now and the game will go ahead. For England, all they can do is focus on themselves and prepare to play the game.
“It’s a hard enough challenge for them as it is, they are playing against a very experienced side and coach. No matter what happens, Wales-England is going to be a tough game.”