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Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Wales release prop for Sale duty

Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Eifion Lewis-Roberts can pack down for Sale at Wasps on Sunday

Wales have released prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts to play for Sale at Wasps on Sunday.

The move could be seen as a gesture of goodwill amid the vexed player-release issue that has dogged Wales recently.

Wales face Australia on 29 November with Premier Rugby Limited having insisted English-based Welsh players will not be released for that game.

Wales v Australia takes place outside the International Rugby Board autumn Tests window.

When the row between PRL and the Welsh Rugby Union began, PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty said: "We have a round of premiership games that weekend (27-29 November) and the players are required to be at their clubs for those games."

Lewis-Roberts' availability to Sale at Wasps may help Wales in any negotiations over the possibility of Sharks scrum-half Dwayne Peel being made available to face the Wallabies.

Gloucester scrum-half Gareth Cooper is also caught up in the issue. He sat on his club's bench at Saracens last weekend sparking hopes in some quarters he could be freed to line up for Wales against the Wallabies.

Dwayne Peel
Scrum-half Dwayne Peel is could be unavailable against Australia
Earlier Gatland warned his English-based players their Wales places are under serious threat.

"If they're not available for training or matches, it is severely going to affect their ability to be selected by Wales," said Gatland.

In October the Welsh Rugby Union took the dramatic step of taking its own regions to the High Court to ensure the early release of Welsh players to prepare for their autumn Test against South Africa on 8 November.

But PRL refused to let Peel, Roberts and Cooper meet up with Wales early.

If Peel and Cooper are absent while Osprey Mike Phillips' recovery from knee surgery continues, Scarlets rookie Martin Roberts would play against Australia.

Speaking earlier this month, Gatland explained PRL's stance could have serious implications for England-based players.

"Possibly going forward this could be an issue for Welsh players playing in England," warned Gatland.

"If they're not available for squad training sessions or matches, it is severely going to affect their ability to be selected by Wales."

He added: "Hopefully things can change over the next couple of weeks."

Earlier this year WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis outlined a new 'Wales Rugby Selection Strategy' warning Welsh internationals leaving Wales of a potential clash.

It stated: "In the future the location of a player outside Wales will be an important factor in whether he is selected for the national team."

A week after the strategy was announced, Peel confirmed he was joining Sale from the Scarlets.

Peel, however, continued to be chosen by Grand Slam winning coach Gatland and Sale coach Kingsley Jones has said they do not wish prevent him playing for Wales.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's available to play for Wales whenever he needs to play for Wales," Kingsley Jones told Scrum V.

He added: "The bottom line is it's a decision that's made at board level, not our (coaches) level and the financial implications that go with it, from the money we get from the RFU (Rugby Football Union), are substantial."

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see also
Wasps v Sale (Sun)
21 Nov 08 |  English
Wales 34-13 Canada
14 Nov 08 |  Welsh
Wales 15-20 South Africa
08 Nov 08 |  Welsh
Gatland's pledge to Welsh cause
31 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union

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