Six Nations: Wales offer olive branch to angry players but sticking point remains to abate strike action
Welsh rugby bosses have offered an olive branch to angry players in a bid to stop them going on strike for their Six Nations clash with England.
Wales are due to host England in Cardiff on Saturday, but the shadow of a player strike still hangs over the encounter.
The WRU have pledged to meet two of the three main demands, and apologised for the delay in organising squad budgets for the four regions for next season. More than 90 players at the Welsh regions are out of contract this summer.
A performance-related percentage of future contracts remains a sticking point, however, and will be thrashed out in meetings this week.
The Welsh Rugby Players’ Association will meet on Wednesday, where a vote on a strike could yet be held.
Head coach Warren Gatland urged the Welsh game to modernise, and fast, saying: “We’ve got to take away our parochialism and take away the self-interest. I’ve always been a big advocate of this. Let’s make the best decisions for the game.”
England will press on undeterred with their preparations, with George Ford, Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry all back in the training squad. Ford has not featured for England since the 2022 Six Nations, but has now shaken off a long-term Achilles problem.
Vice-captain Lawes missed England’s full autumn schedule with a head injury, and has had his comeback delayed by a gluteal complaint. The 33-year-old bolsters the back five of England’s pack and will be a strong contender to feature in the match 23 in Cardiff.
Curry will also be pushing hard for selection after shaking off a hamstring problem to strengthen still further England’s impressive back-row stocks.
Ollie Chessum’s impressive showings at lock suggest Lawes could be more likely deployed in the back-row, too, but Lewis Ludlam has proved another England stand-out at blindside.