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Highlights on Off The Ball


Welsh Rugby - What is happening and will the players really go on strike?

The Welsh Rugby Union and its players are at loggerheads over the lack of contract negotiations. Chris Jones explains what might cause a strike.

BBC Journalist Chris Jones joined Monday Night Rugby to discuss Welsh rugby.

Wales are two games into the Six Nations and they don't have a point.

They're the only team in the tournament without a point. Italy rank above them with one losing bonus point and a far superior point differential. In two games against Ireland and Scotland, Wales have accumulated a -52 point differential.

Warren Gatland's side lost 34-10 to Ireland at home and then 35-7 in Scotland.

But the on-field performance is just the tip of the iceberg in Welsh rugby. In fact, things are so bad that there is at least a small possibility that this weekend's game against England won't go ahead. Players have threatened to strike over the uncertainty their clubs have put on their futures.

Chris Jones of the BBC explained what is going on.

"You can talk short-term and say it's about the next 24-48 hours," Jones said.

"[That means] placating the players on their three demands. Two of those demands, the 60-cap rule being scrapped and a place at the PRB for the Players Union, those demands have been met by the powers that be.

"The sticking point in the short term is about these 80% guaranteed contracts with a 20% bonus structure. But the short term is just the symptom.

"What's happening this week is a symptom of a much bigger piece in Welsh rugby that goes to the very existential issue of what Welsh rugby is. What it wants to be. The model it needs to have, both in terms of structure and in governance. And philosophically how Welsh rugby structures itself going forward."

The players are unhappy because an overwhelming majority of them plying their trade in Wales have uncertain futures. Their contracts run out in five months and no renegotiations have begun because clubs don't know their budgets, which come from the Welsh Rugby Union.

Some of those players are playing each game for Wales. Some will play for Wales at a World Cup in eight months.

Jones notes that Ireland, Scotland, France and England all have proven models. Even while English club rugby is struggling financially, they're not changing their overall structure. Wales' structure is more ambiguous and complicated.

It's led to players leaving Wales at an alarming rate and Welsh clubs faltering on and off the field.

Something needs to change but the players only real leverage comes from missing games.

Ireland were most impressive when they were pragmatic | Andy Dunne.


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