Sam Warburton made his first appearance for the Cardiff Blues at the weekend since his injury on the Lions tour, but the news broke this morning that the current European rugby crisis means his future at the region is far from certain. His agent, former Wales lock Derwyn Jones, insists Warburton wants to stay in Wales, but the financial uncertainty of the region means he has not yet been offered a new deal.
“Sam Warburton has told Cardiff Blues that he wants to stay in Wales next season,” Jones told Y Clwb Rygbi. “But the region aren’t able to offer him a contract at the moment because of the mess that exists in Europe. They don’t know how much money they will have next year.”
“Five weeks ago we said to the WRU and Cardiff Blues that Warburton wants to stay in Wales, but there is no contract offer on the table because of what is happening in Europe.”
The proposed Rugby Champions Cup, that has been put forward by the English and French clubs, has been opened up to all the RaboDirect clubs (including Cardiff), but could yet be vetoed by the national unions, as well as the IRB. Indeed, the unions all came out last week with strongly-worded statements condemning the new tournament.
The issue is, without the revenue from any new tournament, the regions and provinces will not be able to offer their top starts attractive enough deals to keep them around. After the Lions tour effectively worked as a shop window for the players, they will not be short of suitors from across the Channel.
“There is only so much time that guys like Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny and Adam Jones can wait until there is a contract offer, so the WRU and the regions must get together and do whatever they can for the good of Welsh rugby,” said Jones
“[There must not be] the kind of power struggle that has gone on in the past [between the WRU and the regions] and they must do it now. If they don’t do it now then these players will be going.”
This is the latest worrying development for Cardiff regarding their top players, after Jamie Roberts left for Racing Metro this season, and reports emerged last week claiming Leigh Halfpenny was in France looking around Toulon.
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