Six Nations 2023: Wales coach Warren Gatland wants 60-cap rule reviewed

Six Nations 2023: Wales coach Warren Gatland wants 60-cap rule reviewed

Warren Gatland has returned to coach Wales, replacing Wayne Pivac in December 2022

Wales head coach Warren Gatland says the Welsh Rugby Union’s 60-cap rule needs to be looked at amid uncertainty over the future of players’ contracts.

Wales do not select players with fewer than 60 caps who play outside the country, but that is under review.

When asked whether the current rule needs to be changed, Gatland replied: “I think it’s a PRB (Professional Rugby Board) decision.

“I think it’s definitely something we need to talk about.”

Gatland added: “When you look at the end of this year, there are three players who may not be available to us for the World Cup under the current regulations.

“We need to be pragmatic and it would be disappointing if some players miss out on the World Cup.

“Why shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t need to? There has been so much turmoil in terms of getting the agreement sorted between the union and the regions. I think it would be a positive step moving forwards.”

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and four regions are negotiating a new financial settlement for professional rugby in Wales.

This is done through the PRB, which runs the professional game in Wales.

No agreement has been signed, with players out of contract at the end of the season, therefore they are unable to formally commit to new deals. Between 70 and 90 regional players are believed to be out of contract at the end of the season.

The 60-cap rule is intertwined with that process and any decision on it could affect the careers of Will Rowlands and Japan-based Cory Hill and Jake Ball, with the trio all falling under the 60 international caps threshold.

Rowlands will leave Dragons at the end of the season to join Racing 92 and would currently be ineligible for the World Cup in France, which starts in September.

Gatland concedes “there is a possibility” more players could leave Wales because of the contract situation.

“I can’t blame players for exploring the options because there is a certain level of uncertainty in Welsh rugby at the moment, particularly for those who are out of contract,” he added.

“They need to think about their own personal situation and that’s perfectly understandable from my point of view.

“I’d love to make sure we keep our top players in Wales. I don’t know if we need to look at the 60-cap rule because at the moment is it fit for purpose with this much uncertainty in the game in Wales?

“We need to keep in perspective it’s still January at the moment. If you go back a number of years these contracts didn’t used to be discussed until March.

“With the advent of agents and them having more influence in the game, they tend to be done now a good 12 months out from when the contract is up.

“That has definitely been a big change in the game because players now tend to not get judged on their current season, which is what we used to do in the past.

“I can understand that change because everyone is looking for certainty in terms of what’s happening on the pitch.”

Gatland says he hopes Wales’ players will not be distracted by off-the-field matters.

“One of the things we’ve done in the past is work incredibly hard as a group and we’ll continue to do that,” he added.

“That’s tended to build a lot of confidence in the squad.

“The thing about these Welsh boys is they never question you in terms of how hard they work. If you ask them to run through a brick wall, the answer they’ll give you is, ‘What do you want us to do when we get the other side?’

“That’s definitely made my job easier in the past. We’ve got a new coaching group we need to embed in a short space of time and the important thing is we implement clarity about the way we want to coach the team.

“We need to all be singing off the same page to hopefully give us the best possible chance.”

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