sports gazette

Wales are having issues before the Autumn Internationals have even started

Published: 19 Oct 2016

Wales are struggling already and the Autumn Internationals haven't even started yet. Someone needs to get the WRU a filofax.

After Wales’ embarrassing 3-0 defeat during their tour of New Zealand in June, they now need a bold, fresh, and innovative team to re-establish themselves at the forefront of world rugby.

Yet this is proving very difficult. This is not through lack of talent, inspired management or disassociated players, it’s due to a series of technicalities and scheduling issues. This means that big names such as Northampton Saints’ George North amongst others, might not be available for the Autumn Internationals that begin against Australia on the 5th of November.

The Premiership Rugby Ltd (PRL) have an agreement with the RFU that during a three-week window in November, players can be released from their current clubs to represent their country on a worldwide stage in the Autumn Internationals.

However, Wales’ game against Australia has been scheduled outside of this window meaning that Welsh players that play for English teams such as North technically are not allowed to play, unless it has been otherwise written into their contract.

Surprisingly, despite the problem that this scheduling issue has caused, this isn’t the first time it has happened. In 2013, North played for Wales in an outside-the-window test, again against Australia. Northampton were dragged through the mud by the PRL and had to pay a £60,000 fine.

This time around it isn’t just North - a total of six players including Ross Moriarty could not be allowed to play under the PRL’s rules. There is nothing to physically stop the players from being on the pitch against Australia but the PRL do have the power to sanction the club of any player who does do this.

Harlequins have just given Jamie Roberts permission to play against Australia despite the PRL's strict regulations on releasing players. It is still unsure as to whether they will get sanctioned because of their decision.

On the weekend of the 5th there are no Premiership games scheduled so the players would be sitting out due to a technicality, not a prior engagement. However, there are Premiership games on the 19th of November when Wales play Japan, hopefully a slightly easier game for Wales than Australia. Surely a deal can be struck to free the players for the Australia game if they then play club rugby on the 19th?

As of today, Head Coach Rob Howley may indeed have his whole dream line-up against Australia as the PRL are still yet to make a decision.

It also seems a little unfair that clubs are free to release English players to play for England outside of the window but not any other country. Understandably the PRL is an English league but that surely should not justify one rule for one nation and another for everyone else.

Adding to Wales' issues is Sam Warburton who still injured and if selected to play the Wallabies, will not have played a match for over a month leading up to the fixture.

Applying salt to the already gushing wound, the Welsh training camp ahead of the Internationals has conveniently been scheduled to clash with two Welsh derbies. Cardiff Blues take on the Llanelli Scarlets on 28th of October and the Ospreys play the Dragons the next day.

Derbies always get a lot of attention and attract a large crowd and many of Wales’ best players will not be there to delight the masses. It is a long established tradition that the 13 days leading up to an international are an intense training camp for the selected Welsh team. So more questions should be asked, why were the derbies arranged within this period and what is going on in Welsh Rugby?

It all seems a bit of a mess and not the ideal situation for Wales to perform their best rugby especially under new leadership from Howley so Wales have an uphill struggle to have any success this autumn.

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