Six Nations: Wales v England game will go ahead as players agree not to strike

  • ITV Wales Sports Reporter Matt Southcombe said it had been an "extraordinary day" during Wednesday's Wales at Six

The Six Nations Wales v England game will go ahead on Saturday after potential strike action from Welsh players over a contract dispute was averted.

It means Wales will play against England in what some Welsh fans call the most important game of the Six Nations championship.

Players had gathered at Wales’ training base in the Vale of Glamorgan on Wednesday to discuss a range of issues with Professional Rugby Board members, with many of them out of contract at their regional teams at the end of this season.

The threat of players taking Six Nations strike action occurred as a result of a new six-year financial agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union and its four regions not being confirmed and no playing budgets finalised.

Although the game will go ahead, a deal has not yet been finalised Credit: PA Images

Acting Welsh Rugby Union Chief Executive, Nigel Walker, said he was pleased to confirm the game will go ahead, after "extensive discussions and conversations over the last week".

"It's important going forward we continue the dialogue which we've had over the last week or so but not under the circumstances we've had over the last week or so," he said.

He added that all those involved will meet "more regularly" than they have done in the past: "We are all motivated by a genuine desire to get things right for the future of Welsh rugby and this unites us.

"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 in Cardiff on Saturday.

"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."

In a WRU statement, Professional Rugby Board (PRB) chair Malcolm Wall confirmed agreement had been reached with Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) CEO Gareth Lewis.

It means an agreement on player demands which include a reduction to the 60-cap rule which governs international selection. The number of international caps a player will be expected to have won before being free to play outside Wales – and still be available for selection by Wales – will be reduced to 25.

In addition, a revisal of the the fixed-and-variable contract offer being made to players as part of the proposed new Professional Rugby Agreement. It will now contact the option of a ‘fixed-only’ contract, with this offer running alongside the fixed-variable contract originally on the table as part of the new framework which Wales’ four professional sides will work to. The WRPA will now also attend all PRB meetings.

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

  • Picture credit: PA Images

Wales captain Ken Owens added the last few months had caused "huge frustration" and it was "disappointing that it got to this stage".

"I think the collaboration, the conversations that have taken place over the last week, ten days or so, have shown that some positive resolutions can be found," he said.

"I'm glad that we can continue to do that in the future with obviously the seated PRB and RMB and obviously Nigel offering to meet with us on a more regular basis that we don't end up in a situation like this in the future."

Mr Owens added: "It has been a really tough event in Welsh rugby, it's hugely frustrating but it's been a difficult period over the last year, 18 months and hopefully we don't end up here again.

"One thing I can say from a players' point of view is it has been tough but we have fronted up in training, we have prepared like we would for any test match over the last 10 days as the announcement came and we're looking forward to getting out on Saturday and going toe-to-toe against England."

It means Wales will play against England in what some fans call the most important game of the Six Nations Credit: PA Images

  • So how did we get here?

The Welsh Rugby Union pays the regions - Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets - for access to their players for Test windows like the Six Nations and the autumn.

A current agreement over the level of those payments expires this summer.

Welsh rugby powerbrokers have been locked in talks over a new deal for 18 months and they are yet to find common ground.

  • What demands have the Wales players made?

The players in the national squad feel they are taking a stand for every professional rugby player in Wales.

A degree of uncertainty and chaos is fairly common in Welsh rugby but the players have reached the end of their tether.

Last week, the world's most-capped player Alun Wyn Jones said: "If you treat people badly for long enough, you get to where we find ourselves."