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Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 19:27 UK

WRU accused of showing contempt

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland was named Wales coach last December

The Welsh regions have accused the WRU of "displaying contempt" for them in turning down a compromise deal over player release for the autumn Tests.

The Welsh Rugby Union wanted more than five days to prepare for the South Africa test but their proposal has sparked a public war of words.

"It has become apparent that reaching agreement on extended player release is unlikely," read a regions' statement.

The WRU responded: "The statement is inaccurate and misleading."

Ospreys chiefs Roger Blyth and Mike Cuddy, Scarlets chief executive Stuart Gallagher, Dragons boss Gethin Jenkins and Blues chief exec Bob Norster have signed a statement which accuses the governing body of "offering then reneging" on agreements.

Welsh rugby's infighting began when Grand Slam-winning coach Warren Gatland initially wanted 13 days to prepare his players for their autumn international against South Africa.

The regions initially only wanted to release their Welsh players for five days, once the EDF Energy Cup matches were completed.

But in a compromise move, Gatland proposed having his stars either side of the final round of EDF Energy Cup matches - giving him eight days preparation time in total.

This sparked a public feud when the four Welsh regions issued a statement on Friday.

It read: "Given the absence of meaningful dialogue with the WRU to date, it has become apparent that reaching agreement on extended players release, at least in the short term, is unlikely.

"The regions remain as committed as we have ever been to Welsh rugby.

"Last season during World Cup year, as the WRU's own figures show, the regions released players for national duties for a combined total of 198 days, despite only being required to do so for 104 years.

"In return, the WRU has displayed contempt for the regions, offering and then reneging on agreements, arbitrarily shifting the goal posts and, latterly, asking us via the national coach to effectively overlook the EDF Cup.

"However, all of those issues could be holistically addressed and resolved in the future through a new participation agreement, Guinness Premier clubs and RFU have so successfully demonstrated in England."

A Welsh Rugby Union spokesman hit back, saying: "Anyone who cares about Welsh rugby will be disappointed to discover that the four regions have decided to go about their business in this way.

"We regard the statement as inaccurate and misleading and will be addressing these points with the individuals concerned.

"Over recent months there have been numerous meetings between the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions looking forward towards a new Participation Agreement aimed at nurturing and developing elite rugby in Wales.

"The latest of those meetings took place this week and the Welsh Rugby Union regards the talks on a range of relevant issues to be progressing well.

"Therefore we are surprised at the sudden recourse to public statements but will refrain from engaging in detailed debate outside the format of formal negotiation.

Gatland, who led his team to the Six Nations championship crown earlier this year, will have just five days to prepare Wales for the visit of the world champion Springboks.

And Gatland, himself, added in a statement: "I am saddened at the suggestion that I was asked to speak out on the player release issue by the WRU on their behalf.

"To put it bluntly, I am big enough and ugly enough to speak out on my own behalf.

"Everyone knows that five days preparation is insufficient for a major international and that is not questioned by the regions or their executives.

"My focus is straightforward in that I want adequate preparation time for the players selected to represent Wales and nothing more."

The Welsh Rugby Union and the four Welsh regions are currently negotiating a new 'Participation Agreement' which formalises their relationship as their current agreement expires in May 2009.

"The Welsh Rugby Union remains determined to secure a Participation Agreement," added the WRU spokesman.

"This will benefit the whole of rugby in Wales and ensure that our Regions continue to develop and grow as competitive forces on the European and world stage."

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