1. ITV Report

Rhys Williams concerned players will be 'used as pawns in tactical chess game' between regions and WRU

Former Wales player Rhys Williams has told ITV Cymru Wales that he's concerned players will be "used as pawns in a tactical chess game" between the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions.

His comments come after it was confirmed yesterday that Wales captain Sam Warburton had signed a national contract with the WRU.

Williams, who is now President of the Welsh Rugby Players' Association, said: "It's a positive news story.

"I think it's a very strategic move by the Welsh Rugby Union. I think it would have looked very embarrassing if we'd lost our national captain to go and play in England or in France."

The news that Warburton had become the first senior player in Wales to sign a contract with the WRU was followed by a statement today from his agent, Derwyn Jones, in which he said that due to the current fallout between the regions and the WRU, there are "no cast iron guarantees that Sam will be able to play for Cardiff Blues next season.

"Sam wants to stay in Wales and intends to play for Cardiff Blues next season, should all the issues be resolved," said Jones.

Sam Warburton has signed a national contract with the WRU Credit: WRU

Yesterday Warburton said he was "delighted" to commit his future to Welsh rugby and that he "would like to thank the WRU for its commitment" to him.

The WRU, meanwhile, hailed the agreement as a "triumph in the best interests of all Welsh rugby."

In addition the WRU stated that under the arrangement Warburton's salary will be paid by the WRU, adding that the WRU intends that he will be released free of charge for his Cardiff Blues duties.

But Williams, a former Cardiff Blues player himself, has concerns.

"Hopefully the union and the regions aren't going to use Sam as leverage as to try and fix this (participation) agreement out.

"There's 190 other professional players in Wales trying to play their professional game here.

"Until everything is sorted out and there's a new participation agreement sorted and everyone knows which competitions they're playing in and with who, I think it is a slight concern at the minute if players do go onto a central contract.

"Where are they going to apply their trade, which clubs or regions are they going to be playing for, how often are they going to be released... where are they going to train, are they going to train full time with the regions or the union?

"There's so much more information to come out and I'm just concerned that the players aren't used as pawns in a tactical chess game."