Jamie Roberts will leave Cardiff Blues at the end of the season, the club has confirmed.
The Wales and Lions centre, who turns 26 today, is thought to be on his way to Racing Metro, although that destination hasn't been officially confirmed yet.
He is the latest in a string of high-profile players to leave regional rugby. The Blues Chairman Peter Thomas has hit out about the 'player drain out of Wales', and called for more help from the sport's governing body here, the WRU.
– Richard Holland, Cardiff Blues Chief Executive
The offer that we made to Jamie was an extremely attractive one and would have seen him become certainly the highest paid player in the Blues squad, and arguably in the UK. As a business we simply don’t have the resource to compete with the offers that Jamie has received.
Naturally we are disappointed that Jamie has decided to leave the region but we wish him the best of luck with his career. Given news of Jamie’s departure we will begin the search to find a suitable marquee player who will be eligible to play for us throughout the entire season.
– Peter Thomas, Cardiff Blues Chairman
It is impossible for the Welsh regions to compete with the kind of money that is on offer from other clubs in other countries. The time has come that the Welsh benefactors should not be responsible for funding the professional game. The chairman of the regions can guide companies but if we want to keep Jamie Roberts and other international players in Wales then the governing body has to intervene.
The player drain out of Wales, which has a negative impact on the Welsh regions and the national team, will only continue without increased funding from the governing body. The governing body has to take far more responsibility.
Roberts is a product of the Blues academy, and made his senior debut for the region in August 2007. He has gone on to make 81 club appearances to date. He's appeared for Wales 44 times, was part of Grand Slam-winning teams in 2008 and 2012, and was named the Lions Player of the Series on the 2009 tour of South Africa.
He is also a medical student at Cardiff University, and will sit his final exams around the time of the 2013 Six Nations.
He looks set to join a long line of Wales players who have been lured by the attractions of the big-spending French game.
Among the current international crop:
- Prop Gethin Jenkins left Cardiff Blues this summer to join Toulon
- Lock Luke Charteris left the Dragons this summer to join Perpignan
- Scrum-half Mike Phillips left the Ospreys in summer 2011 to join Bayonne
- Fly-half James Hook left the Ospreys in summer 2011 to join Perpignan
- Full-back Lee Byrne left the Ospreys in summer 2011 to join Clermont Auvergne.