Wales captain Sam Warburton signs WRU contract
Wales captain Sam Warburton has ended speculation about his future by signing a WRU contract on Saturday
Sam Warburton has committed his future to Welsh rugby after becoming the first player to sign a central contract with the WRU.
The 25-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker had been linked with clubs in France and England, but had indicated that he was happy to stay in Wales.
I am delighted to commit my future to Welsh rugby
Warburton, who captained the British and Irish Lions to a series win in Australia this summer, will remain with the capital region with his salary paid by the WRU.
The latest twist in the political imbroglio which has threatened to rip apart Welsh rugby could signal a major breakthrough of the union and regions coming together in the best interests of Wales’ national sport.
Under the central contract arrangement, Warburton will be released by the WRU for all Cardiff Blues games outside his Wales duties at no cost to the Blues, with no guarantee of selection in the Wales squad or match-day team.
Warburton said: “I am delighted to commit my future to Welsh rugby. I would like to thank the WRU for its commitment to me. I also want to take this opportunity to thank my agent, Derwyn Jones, who has supported and mentored me from a young age and always had my best interests at heart.
“I would further like to offer my thanks to my legal team at Harding Evans particularly, Dan Wilde and David Lewis who have contributed greatly to bringing these negotiations to a successful conclusion. Now that my future is secured within Wales I look forward to focusing on the Six Nations and beyond.”
With Wales’ top stars including Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones courted by the richest clubs in Europe, the union stepped in to ensure that no fewer than six players were offered contracts to remain in Wales, with some also receiving contracts from their regions.
Welsh rugby together cannot stand back any longer and watch its best players leave Wales
While Halfpenny this week accepted a money-spinning move to reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon, Alun Wyn Jones signed a new two-year deal with his regions Ospreys, and Warburton has opted to go the other route and sign with the union.
WRU Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, added: “We have been able to strike a deal which ensures the Welsh captain will continue to play his rugby at the highest level here in Wales.
“I am extremely grateful to the Cardiff Blues Chairman, Peter Thomas for his understanding when the WRU Chairman and I met him on Wednesday to outline this proposed plan.
“Welsh rugby together cannot stand back any longer and watch its best players leave Wales. We all have to act together and act now in the best interests of the game.
“There can be no better message to current and future internationals than the decision of Sam Warburton to become the first senior player to sign a WRU National Contract and commit to regional rugby and international rugby in Wales.
“This is all about us working together in the best interests of rugby in Wales and I am sure this will be remembered as an important moment for rugby in Wales.”
With a week to go until the 2014 Six Nations championship, there are still questions over where Adam Jones and Scarlets duo Scott Williams and Rhys Priestland will play their rugby next season.
The WRU’s move to sign Warburton does nothing to solve the question of which competitions the regions will compete in next season and what will happen to union contracted players should the regions opt to walk away from WRU-sanctioned competitions.