WRU heavily critical of Welsh rugby regions
Union accuses Scarlets of trying to offload George North despite offer of financial aid
Scarlets wing George North was allegedly surplus to requirements. Photograph: Huw Evans/Inpho
The Welsh Rugby Union has launched an incendiary attack on the four professional regions and accused the Scarlets of actively seeking to offload star wing George North without first informing the player.
The relationship between Regional Rugby Wales, the body which represents the four teams, and the WRU, has been strained in recent years but the governing body’s decision to openly criticise the regions through a strongly-worded press release marks a new low.
The regions have called on the WRU to help them fight the drain of Welsh talent to the financial might of clubs in France and England.
North looks set to join the likes of James Hook, Mike Phillips, Paul James, Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts in playing outside the principality, after his agent claimed the Scarlets and Northampton had held talks over a move for the giant three-quarter. But the WRU claims the Scarlets, rather than seeking to keep North, had touted the 20-year-old to clubs in France last summer.
“The WRU is aware that the Scarlets opened discussions to transfer the player with clubs outside Wales and the UK late in 2012,” said the statement. “George North informed the WRU shortly after the Wales v Ireland RBS 6 Nations international on February 2nd, 2013, that he had then been told of the transfer proposal.
“George refused to consider France, but reluctantly conceded he would be prepared to move if the Scarlets wished.”
The WRU has asserted it offered to help the Scarlets retain North’s services by offering him a central contract with the union, only to discover the regions had an agreement in place not to field any player under a central contract.
The statement continued: “The WRU first tabled an offer to discuss centrally contracting Welsh qualified regional players in August 2012 and has renewed that proposal. No meaningful response from the Regions has been received by the WRU.
“The WRU revisited the issue of George North and agreed to consider assisting in a financial model to retain him in Wales with one of the four Regions.
“The WRU has recently discovered that the regions signed an agreement which precludes any of them playing an individual who is centrally contracted to the Union.
“The WRU urges all four regions to abandon this stance and return to the negotiating table."
The statement also called on the regions to "abandon the practice of selling Welsh qualified senior players for profit before their contracts are concluded" and to inform each other and the WRU when they are seeking to sell or release any Wales players.
The WRU also laid the blame over the delay in establishing a Professional Regional Game Board firmly at the door of the regions. The proposal came in the wake of a critical independent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers into the finances and management of the regions, but the body has yet to meet.
The WRU put this down to the regions altering their interpretation of the agreement to form the PRGB.A new proposal was presented to the regions last week but has not been responded to as yet, according to the WRU.