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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 14:37 GMT
Wales selection threat to players
Wales coach Warren Gatland wants his players close to home
Wales coach Warren Gatland wants his players close to home
Welsh players have been warned that their selection for the national team could be jeopardised if they choose to play their club rugby outside Wales.

The policy has been proposed by Welsh Rugby Union group chief executive Roger Lewis and Wales coach Warren Gatland.

It will be put before the full WRU board for approval on 24 January.

"This is essential to create the best possible environment for players to work and develop through to the national team," Gatland said.

Bruce P

However, the policy should not affect those already playing outside Wales, only those who in future take contracts away from the four Welsh regions.

The Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Llanelli Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons already provide the bulk of players who are challenging for a place in Gatland's first squad, which will be announced on Monday.

But Chris Horsman at Worcester, Gareth Delve, Gareth Cooper and Will James at Gloucester, Hal Luscombe and Ceri Jones at Harlequins, plus Brent Cockbain at Sale all ply their trade in England.

The indication is that these players will not have their current situation held against them.

But the WRU has put out a clear message that - as with the likes of New Zealand and Australia - if you do not play in Wales, then you damage your chances of playing for Wales.

"It will enable us to develop a new national squad training regime that is required to return the team to international competitiveness," added Gatland.

"(It will help us)... to remain in close and constant contact with the individuals to ensure they are fully on board with the structures and systems in place to get the best out of them as Welsh internationals.

This is all about building Welsh international rugby for the long term

Wales coach Warren Gatland

"That is vital because this is all about building Welsh international rugby for the long term and I am determined to focus on that.

"The strategy will be under constant review because we will want to remain alert to any issues which affect our selection plans."

The proposal will be discussed with senior representatives of all four regions at a professional rugby board meeting on Friday, with Lewis expecting the full board to adopt it as official policy on 24 January.

"The key reasons for approving this tough stance are that the players to be selected for the national squad should be... available for an enhanced training programme and will be well cared for and developed as players by the regions," Lewis said.

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