‘Gatlands Law’ stated that only Welsh region players could qualify for Wales, with a handful of selections allowed. In the new policy, it still requires Wales stars to play in Wales but with a twist, it also lets current players who have sixty international caps and that play outside of Wales to remain in contention. This allows the likes of Dan Biggar to continue playing for wales even though he plays for Northampton saints, in the English Premiership.
The new law also aids young Welsh hopefuls too. Wales can select non-capped players who play their trade abroad. This has allowed for Welsh fans to be excited over youngsters like Jonah Holmes who plays for Leicester Tigers. The addition to the new law allows for many talented and Welsh qualified players a gateway into the Welsh setup.
So, how does this impact the Welsh goldfish bowl?
It will inspire future generations
Rugby is a religion in Wales. Many a Welsh fan, young and old has chased the dream of playing at the National Stadium of Wales. By bringing back the rugby giants of the world, like George North, it enables Wales to inspire the younger generations further and keep producing high class rugby players at all levels. This aspect is vitally important and since 2010, Welsh children’s participation in rugby has risen 38% say Wales Online. With this statistic and players returning to Wales, we can expect to see Welsh grassroots rugby thriving.
It gives pride and hope back to the Welsh regions
It’s easy to say that the Welsh rugby regions are not the calibre they use to be, with the exception of the Scarlets. Welsh regions use to challenge for the European cups, with even Cardiff Blues beating Toulon in the 2009/10 season. Cardiff Blues were formidable compared to their current self, which allowed for stars to grow under their success, like former Wales Captain, Sam Warburton.
By bringing them back to their home country, Wales can keep their stars under a close eye and help push the regions to their former glory. The Ospreys can be expected to push for the title this season with the return of George North. North has already scored twenty five points in nine starts for the Swansea based outfit. Newport Gwent Dragons have also been reinforced by Ross Moriaty and Richard Hibbard. The duo can offer copious amounts of skill and experience which can only improve the region further.
Will Wales really miss their exiled stars?
The latest controversy during the new selection laws was the potential loss of Rhys Webb. The fast and dynamic scrumhalf Is currently playing his trade at Toulon and has not played more than sixtytimes for Wales. Alongside Owen Williams, they are the only ones really missing out on playing for Wales at the moment because other players like Dan Biggar and Luke Charteris have played over sixty caps for Wales.
But are Wales missing them? Arguably when Rhys Webb is on form he can be on par with Conor Murray and Aaron Smith. There is no doubt that Wales will miss Webb’s high playing tempo and try scoring eye but thankfully he has many viable understudies. The likes of Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams and Aled Davies are all great nines who can play quality rugby at the highest levels. Moreover, Wales have depth throughout the squad whom play in Wales and need to recognise it’s the best long-term situation.
For those who have missed out, the policy only rewards loyalty. In the future, this will give players more to think about when trying to force a move out of Wales. Which make perfect sense, as most rugby players should put their international duties first.
Gatland’s parting gift to the regions
If you’re a Welsh rugby fan wanting to see Wales continue to grow into an international rugby power, the latest selection policy is the one for you. If you don’t agree with the policy, it’s important to remember what Gatland said. “it’s not about what’s best for me and the national team, it’s about what’s best for Welsh rugby”. With time, Wales can make their regions reputable again and potentially lift the Webb Ellis cup one day.
Written by Sam Powell