Six Nations: Wales clash with England to go ahead after strike action avoided

By Sports Desk February 22, 2023

Wales' Six Nations clash with England will go ahead this weekend after strike action was avoided following crunch talks on Wednesday.

Professional Rugby Board (PRB) chair Malcolm Wall confirmed an agreement had been reached with Welsh Rugby Players' Association (WRPA) chief executive officer Gareth Lewis over a series of key issues that had led to a realistic threat of the fixture not taking place.

The settlement of a significant contract dispute came after the PRB agreed a reduction to the 60-cap rule that governs international selection and revised the fixed-and-variable contract offer for players.

Only 25 international caps will be required for players before being able to play freely outside of Wales, and still be available for the national side, while Lewis will attend all PRB meetings.

A new contract agreement, under the newly proposed new Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA), will contain a fixed-only option, as well as a fixed-variable deal that Wales' professional sides will work under.

"We have listened to our players and have been able to resolve the three issues presented, quickly and efficiently," said Wall after the announcement.

"The six-year framework we have agreed has always had the players' best interests at heart and we have been happy to allay their understandable concerns with the adjustments described.

"Negotiations at PRB will continue in earnest as we seek to sign our new six-year PRA as soon as possible and we continue to be grateful to our professional players for their understanding and patience at this most critical time for the game in Wales."

Warren Gatland delayed his squad announcement on Tuesday amid ongoing discussions, with Wales players reportedly keen to have matters sorted by the following day.

Those plans came to fruition after negotiations between the four Wales professional sides and WRPA representatives at Principality Stadium, and a further meeting among international and club players.

"I'm grateful to PRB members for the meaningful consultation that has taken place over the past days and weeks and for the compromises they have made in getting to this point," said WRPA's Lewis.

"The impasse that was reached this week is of course regrettable for all parties but, having now been granted a place within PRB, the players' voices can now be heard which will avoid any repeat of situations like this in the future.

"The players are now keen to put this matter behind them and concentrate on preparations for one of the biggest matches in the international sporting calendar in Cardiff on Saturday."

Welsh Rugby Union interim chief executive officer Nigel Walker added: "The PRB has been agile and receptive to the players' requests and the players have, equally, been responsible and reasonable in their dealings with the PRB which is a credit to all parties.

"We will all now put this matter behind us and I know the nation will also unite as one behind the team when they face England.

"The game is on and, whilst there is still some detail to discuss and some fine tuning to be done in our negotiations at PRB, this is undoubtedly been a linchpin moment from which we can build."

Wales are bottom of the table after losing to Ireland and Scotland at the start of Gatland's second spell as head coach.

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