Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 23 News List

RUGBY WORLD CUP: Welsh rugby embroiled in money row on eve of cup

BAD TIMING The Welsh Rugby Union is rejecting demands by four regional teams for ?30,000 for each of their players taking part in next month's World Cup


Welsh rugby was plunged into a financial row on Friday just two weeks before Gareth Jenkins' team open their World Cup campaign against Canada.

Wales' four regional teams -- Neath-Swansea Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Llanelli Scarlets and the Newport-Gwent Dragons -- have met with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) seeking compensation of almost ?1 million (US$2 million) for the loss of their leading players for the duration of the World Cup.

But the regions, who are asking for ?30,000 per player involved in the seven-week tournament, have been told they will be getting nothing.

In protest, the clubs could withdraw the likes of James Hook, Tom Shanklin, Dwayne Peel and Kevin Morgan from the World Cup squad although they accept such a controversial 11th-hour move would cause a public backlash.

The Western Mail reported that the WRU's chief executive Roger Lewis argued it would be unfair to pay such a hefty sum to the regions at the expense of the rest of Welsh rugby.

Ospreys joint managing director Mike Cuddy said: "We are asking for help, but, at the moment, we have not got any from the WRU. I just hope that sense will prevail and that talks with the Union can continue about compensation."

"We have had an amicable rapport with the WRU for the last 10 months and want that to continue. It would be a shame if that was to change. Time is of the essence and we don't want to rock the boat with the World Cup being so close," Cuddy said.

"Nevertheless, we are disappointed with this decision and I would urge the WRU to reconsider," he said.

In an official statement last night, Lewis said: "The incredible disappointment we feel over the attitude and actions of the four regions in going public with details of our private discussions is tempered by our determination to stand firm on this issue for the sake of Welsh rugby as a whole."

"We are saddened that on the eve of the World Cup the four regions have adopted this approach and have put unnecessary pressure on Wales' build-up," he said.

"The four regions have been demanding nearly ?1 million in compensation for releasing their players to pull on the red jersey of Wales in the greatest rugby tournament in the world," Lewis said.

"The Welsh Rugby Union is saying a firm and decisive `no' to this demand. We are saying no because it would not be fair to the rest of Welsh rugby to give such an enormous sum to four regions who already receive large and generous sums from the WRU," he said.

"Last year the WRU increased the money we distributed to the four regions from ?1.8 million to ?3.4 million. This ?3.4 million figure is above and beyond money generated from the European Cup [and other club events]; in total they receive in excess of ?11 million," he said.

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