Rugby strikes: Warren Gatland 'hopeful' contracts resolution reached today ahead of Wales v England

  • Warren Gatland says he hopes "things get resolved today".

Welsh rugby is no stranger to chaos, but has it ever known chaos quite like this?

We are four days out from the biggest fixture in the Welsh rugby calendar, Wales v England in Cardiff, and players are on the verge of striking.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said he is "hopeful" a resolution will be reached soon between the WRU and players in the ongoing dispute over contracts.

But in reality, players are not going to get a concrete long-term funding agreement that they crave in place by tomorrow's deadline.

Players have threatened to walkout if an agreement is not reached by then, leaving the future of the Wales v England Six Nations match on Saturday hanging in the balance.

When the possibility first emerged last week, I was fairly dismissive of the idea. It just didn't seem like a realistic prospect.

The game not taking place would cost the Welsh Rugby Union north of £8 million, and that's before any fines from the Six Nations rain down.

It would leave a huge hole in the game's finances, meaning that there is less money to go around next year.

But everyone I have spoken to since, players and administrators, have convinced me that the Wales squad are extremely serious about this.

Wales are due to face England on Saturday, however players have warned they will strike if a resolution is not reached by Wednesday. Credit: PA Images

The real nub of this issue now is whether the WRU can give the players enough assurances to get them to a point where they are comfortable calling off the strike.

Of their three demands, it looks likely that the players are getting two - a players' voice on the Professional Rugby Board, which controls the pro game in Wales, and a revised or scrapped 60-cap rule.

But the real sticking point is the structure of the proposed new contracts. Players are already being asked to take pay cuts in their new deals, but they will also only see 80 percent of their salaries guaranteed. The other 20 percent will be dependent on things like availability for matches and results.

Understandably, that is being viewed as a deeply unpalatable prospect by the players but it's one that the WRU seem adamant on.

Warren Gatland had been due to name the team set to face England on Tuesday but that announcement has now been delayed until Thursday amid the continued uncertainty.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday (21 February) head coach Warren Gatland said he was "hopeful" a resolution could be reached today. Credit: PA Images

Speaking at a press conference, Gatland said the dispute has posed "a challenge" but "hopefully" things would be sorted today so the team can focus solely on Saturday's clash.

The head coach added that strike was a real possibility but he was optimistic that it could be averted and a solution reached that both the players and WRU are happy with.

"I think [strike action] is a genuine threat, there's no doubt about that," he said.

"But having spoken to a few people today, I'm confident that we will get some resolution."

Gatland has previously said despite supporting the "players' stance", he would not support strike action that endangered their next Six Nations game.

All Welsh professional rugby players have been invited to a meeting with WRU officials on Wednesday 22 February amid the ongoing issue.

In a previous statement, the WRU explained: "The cold facts are that the WRU and clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford, so the new agreement establishes a new framework for contract negotiations.

"The average salary of a Welsh professional rugby player under the new framework will be around £100k-per-year."