Wales vs England Six Nations clash to go ahead as players withdraw threat of strike

Wales vs England Six Nations clash to go ahead as players withdraw threat of strike

The Six Nations clash between Wales and England will go ahead after the Welsh players agreed to take the field on Saturday amid a contract dispute after an 11th-hour breakthrough.

The threat of players taking Six Nations strike action occurred as a result of a new six-year financial agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and its four regions not being confirmed and no playing budgets finalised.

But after a meeting between officials from the WRU’s Professional Rugby Board (PRB) and players on Wednesday, WRU acting chief executive Nigel Walker confirmed the marquee Six Nations fixture will indeed be played as planned at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Walker said: “I’m pleased to announce that after extensive conversations and discussions over the last week the Wales-England game will go ahead as scheduled.”

Players had gathered at Wales’ training base in the Vale of Glamorgan to discuss a range of issues with PRB members, with many of them out of contract at their regional teams at the end of this season.

Walker and Wales captain Ken Owens confirmed that the controversial ‘60-cap rule’ - where only players who play their club rugby in Wales are eligible for the national team, unless they have 60 or more international caps - has been reduced to 25 caps. Walker went on to confirm that following Wednesday’s meetings, the current contract freeze is to be lifted next week,

Walker added: “It’s important going forward that we continue the dialogue over the last week or so, but not under the circumstances we’ve had over the last week or so.

“Ken and I and some of the senior players will be meeting more regularly than perhaps we have in the past.”

Owens admitted that the impasse and the uncertainty surrounding this weekend’s game had meant Welsh rugby has been the “laughing stock” of world rugby.

As captain of Wales, Ken Owens confirmed the breakthrough had been made (PA Wire)
As captain of Wales, Ken Owens confirmed the breakthrough had been made (PA Wire)

The captain added: “We are obviously happy. There has been huge frustration over the last number of months that it got to this stage. We felt we had to make a stand, but the conversations that have taken place over the last 10 days or so have shown that some positive resolutions can be found.

“The players are satisfied, hence why the game is on on Saturday. It has been very tough, hugely frustrating. It has been a difficult period, but we have fronted up in training and prepared as we would for any Test match and we are looking forward to getting out there and going toe-to-toe with England.

“Of course it has been a distraction with everything that has been going on, but I have got to commend the players’ professionalism in this. When we have crossed that white line at training, we’ve done our work as professional players. We are really ready for Saturday.”

The players had been negotiating over three key demands: a reversal on the planned introduction of a variable element of their contracts, the removal of the aforementioned controversial 60-cap rule, and the establishment of a player voice at PRB level.

Wales host England in desperate need of a win having begun Warren Gatland’s second tenure as head coach with back-to-back defeats to Ireland and Scotland.

Their visitors achieved their first win under their own new coach, Steve Borthwick, last time out against Italy.