There has been much debate over Wales selection policies over the last decade. Currently, Wales players can play for the National team in a variety of ways.
Firstly, if they play for any of the Welsh regions, they can pull on the red jersey. Secondly, if they play outside Wales and have 60 or more international caps, they can still play for Wales. This is how Dan Biggar still plays for Wales even though he plays for the Saints, in Northampton. Finally, if they have not been capped by Wales they can be called up, irrespective of where they play. This is in order to allow young talent to be given a chance on the international scene before they commit themselves to regional rugby. This is how Tigers full back, Jonah Holmes earned his place in the Wales squad this season.
But is this all fair?
It makes Wales look a little silly…
It all kicked off again last week because of a young Welsh prospect. Front row, Rhys Carre has crossed the severn bridge to play for Saracens. On paper, this is an excellent move for the youngster and will allow him to develop his game further. Additionally, due to him not being capped he can still turn out for Wales even though he’s playing in England.
Yet fellow Welshman, Rhys Webb still can’t play for Wales… Webb signed for Toulon before the 60 cap policy was implemented. Therefore, without knowing, he ruled himself out to play for Wales. Prior to the 60 cap policy, Gatland was allowed a few exception players. Arguably, Webb would have been one of these exceptions. This might explain why he thought it was okay to leave Wales and play in France.
Whats more annoying is that Webb has 28 caps and has been one of Wales best players for a while. He has put his body on the line for his country, resulting in amazing performances and serious injuries. Why should Wales shun one of their best players for moving abroad?
It gets even more confusing.
The Rhys Webb story is painful for any Welsh fan but it gets even more frustrating and confusing. If Rhys Carre is called up for international duty whilst at Sarries, he could potentially still play for them even if he renews his contract… If his contract contains extensions, it still counts as his original contract so can still play for Wales. This is how Thomas Francis, whom plays for Exeter has still been able to play international rugby.
So why is this frustrating? Last month, Rhys Priestland signed a new contract with Bath. The fly half has 50 Wales caps and is now illegible for Wales because he signed a new contract. Moreover, if he had an extension clause in his contract he would still be able to play for Wales.
The difference between a one to three year contract extension and a new deal entirely, is slim to none. So it can be seen that they are limiting themselves here and causing confusion for everyone.
This situation is complicated further by the fact Josh Adams has been made to move back home in order to continue to play for Wales. Adams signed for Cardiff Blues last month because his contract with Worcester is coming to an end. On the other hand, Thomas Francis is allowed to remain at Exeter! The policy just seems flawed on so many levels.
What do Wales need to do?
I think the Wales 60 cap policy needs some tweaks. The policy was created in order to keep Wales players in the Welsh regions, so they could have more control over them and develop regional rugby once again. In order to reinforce this goal, they need to keep the 60 cap policy for all players, even if they have not been capped. Therefore, Rhys Carre would have to decide what his priorities are. Moreover, by doing this it means it stops young, talented and future Welsh players from leaving regional rugby with relative ease.
Additionally, the extension loophole should be treated the same way as signing a new contract. For example, if Francis agreed to a new extension he should become illegible.
Written by Sam Powell