Wales: CEO Nigel Walker confident deal with regions will be signed in a ‘matter of days’

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

The Welsh Rugby Union’s (WRU) acting chief executive, Nigel Walker, is confident that a deal with the regions will be signed soon.

Rugby within Wales is currently in a mess with players in an uncertain situation. They are unable to sign new contracts as the WRU and the regions have yet to confirm a budget ahead of next season.

Strike action was only just avoided last week, which threatened Wales’ Six Nations clash with England, as a compromise deal was agreed in principle.

Although the paperwork only came through at the weekend, Walker believes the formal agreement will be signed in a “matter of days”.

Very confident

“It is a complicated document. You’ve got five entities. They’re working through any final tweaks. But the contract discussions with players, that is going to go ahead irrespective,” he told BBC Sport.

“The regions are actually contracting before it is signed. That gives you an indication of their confidence that it is going to be signed.

“So yes, I’m very confident that this week will go smoothly.”

Walker also apologised for his language when he stated he would hold the four regions “feet to fire” over player contracts.

“I think the testosterone was coursing through my body and I was getting a little bit excited because it was within an hour of Wales taking on England,” he said.

“Not the best phrase I’ve used, I should have used much gentler terms and I should have talked about collaboration because that’s what I believe in.

“I’ve spoken to my colleagues in the regions and they understand what I was trying to do was give the players the reassurance it would go ahead.”

The Professional Game Board were locked in talks with over 100 players for more than an hour last week in an attempt to reach an agreement.

Players have been left frustrated by the Welsh rugby authorities’ inability to sign a deal, but Walker specifically praised Wales captain Ken Owens over his role in the discussions.

“I understand the players’ frustration. If I’d been in their position I would be exactly the same so there are no hard feelings,” he added.

“If anything it’s strengthened my relationship with Ken Owens, for example, who I think is a magnificent player and a magnificent man as well.

“We had a number of direct conversations and as I say I think our relationship is stronger as a result because we trust each other. I trust him, he told me what the players wanted and I hope he trusts me.”

Regions’ response

Scarlets confirmed to the BBC that they had received the paperwork but is remaining coy over when everything will be agreed.

Chairman Simon Mudderack told BBC Radio Wales: “The reality is we received only through the weekend what I’d say is close to a final set of documents from the union.

“Rest assured we will spend every waking hour – as indeed I already have – poring over those documents in order to try and get to the final deal.

“Regardless in parallel this week we will move forward with contracts with players.

“In our instance in the Scarlets – and I can’t talk for other regions – we were as clear as we possibly could be and very specific in the majority of cases with our players before Christmas about what they would or would not receive.”

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