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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Questions facing Wales' regional plans
What questions need to be addressed in Wales' new regional structure?
Wales' rugby chiefs may have agreed on five regional sides for Celtic and European competition next season, but there are plenty of decisions yet to be taken.

We take a look at some of the glaring issues facing the game's administrators. Watch BBC Sport output for the latest developments, and let us know what you think.


What will the teams be called?

A vital issue to fans and marketing men. The merged teams, having given up their individual identities, will also be keen to see that Cardiff and Llanelli are made to take names reflecting their new regional responsibilities, although Peter Thomas is giving little in this respect.

What colours will they wear?

A seemingly minor issue, but in the bickering world of Welsh club rugby who knows how easy it will be for the merged sides to decide on their strip...?

How will games be split between club grounds?

This will depend on individual deals between the merged clubs. The Gwent partnership has said that all games will be played at Rodney Parade rather than Eugene Cross Park, a key element of the Swansea-Neath merger was that half the games are played at the Gnoll.

Who will coach the teams?

The coaches have been named, but their sidekicks will be announced in the coming weeks. It remains to be seen whether the regional coach will also manage the semi-professional club side below the region ie will Lyn Jones be coach of Neath as well as the merged Swansea-Neath side?

What happens to existing contracts?

Percy Montgomery's contract will be honoured
All existing playing contracts will be honoured, limiting the choice over who should be offered regional deals in the slimmed-down professional structure.

Will there be a limit on foreign players and when will this be introduced?

Again existing contracts will be honoured. WRU chief executive David Moffett has said each region will be allowed to includ only two non-Welsh qualified players in their squads in two years' time.

Who will choose which players get contracts and how they are drafted between the regions?

It has been suggested that the national coach will have an input into player distribution so that, for example, the best three fly-halves in Wales do not end up in one regional side. This could conflict with the ambitions of the clubs, though, who will want the strongest possible squads for their regions. When the coaches are appointed, they will be able to pick 26 players before the rest of the squad goes into the draft system.

Who will control player contracts?

Little will change in this regard - the clubs will contract the majority of players, but there will be a joint central deal for the Welsh squad.

Can there be a transfer war?

Without central control of contracts as in Ireland, the way remains open for clubs to bid for the best players. WRU chief Moffett says that financial restrictions will prevent regions from hoarding all the stars, but there seems to be a major reliance on goodwill. There has been talk of introducing a salary cap.

How many players will be contracted?

With five teams agreed upon, 150 would seem to be the minimum number of regional contracts to be made available.

How long will contracts last?

Contracts are likely to be short to keep players out of a comfort zone, but there may be exceptions.

How much input will the national coach have on regional selection?

Wales coach Steve Hansen
It has been suggested that Steve Hansen will have a say on how players are distributed between sides. It remains to be seen how strong his voice will be and how much input he will have on team selection within the squads.

Which of the five clubs enters the Parker Pen competitions?

Moffett has persuaded European Rugby Cup to allow all five Welsh regional sides to enter the Heineken Cup for 2003/4. In future years it is likely that Celtic League performance will determine which one of the five teams drops into the Parker Pen the following season, while the other four continue in the top tier of European competition.

What is the structure of the Celtic League?

The tournament will be on a home and away basis from next season and will be played during the World Cup.

Will the regional sides compete in any competitions outside the Celtic League and European tournaments?

A competition between the five Welsh regions has been mooted to open the season and get the public used to the new entities.

What will be the structure in Wales below regional level?

The plan is for a 16-club, semi-professional Premier Division outside the regional structure. This will include all the current Premier sides, plus the best seven from Division One. The league will receive 800,000 funding, each team getting 50,000. Players from the regional sides could come into the premier league at the business end of the season.

The league will replace the current under-21 set-up and will be expected to prepare youngsters for senior competition. Each team below this level will be given 8,000 a season.

How will the draft from the lower leagues to the regional sides work?

Players who impress in the lower leagues will be considered for future regional contracts, but it is unclear whether they will be able to move up in the course of the season. Systems need to be established for the call-up of players if there are injuries in the regional teams. It will also have to be decided which players are paid - and how much they get - in the semi-professional leagues.

How will the teams be marketed?

When other issues are settled the marketing men will need to ensure the new format is launched in style. Issues to be addressed are legion eg will transport be put on between Bridgend and Pontypridd for home games at Sardis Road? Will season tickets bought at St Helen's be valid for the Gnoll?

Where will the shortfall in funding come from?

Llanelli director of rugby Gareth Jenkins
All parties are sceptical that there is sufficient funding for the five teams. Moffett has talked about the shortfall being made up by increasing the fan base and merchandise sales through a successful format, but details are vague. Major problems could arise if any of the club benefactors decide to turn away from the game.

What are the plans for north Wales?

It has been indicated that the west Wales region has responsibility for north Wales and that they will play a certain number of games at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground. Llanelli director of rugby Gareth Jenkins has welcomed this, but again details are vague. Jenkins also alluded to the fact that his region would perhaps only be responsible for a part of the north.

What are the plans for grassroots rugby?

The funding agreed for the regional sides does not include any consideration for developing the game at grassroots level. It remains to be seen how responsibility is apportioned for this crucial aspect of the game's development.





VOTE RESULTS
Who is the best Welsh coach?
Lynn Howells
 9.24% 
Gareth Jenkins
 57.71% 
Leigh Jones
 0.86% 
Lyn Jones
 15.53% 
Allan Lewis
 3.60% 
Mike Ruddock
 10.75% 
Dai Young
 2.31% 
1861 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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