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Wales Online
Wales Online
Jon Doel & Katie Sands

Today's rugby news as Wales likely to name joint World Cup captains and U20s internationals leave for England

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Thursday, June 15.

Wales consider joint captains for World Cup

Warren Gatland has revealed he is leaning towards naming joint captains for Wales' Rugby World Cup campaign.

Wales have made the call previously, handing the dual captaincy to Cory Hill and Ellis Jenkins for the 2018 tour to Argentina.

Ken Owens was captain during the 2023 Six Nations, when off-field contract issues and the very real threat of a player strike took a visible toll on him, while Justin Tipuric captained Wales last autumn after Dan Biggar led the side for that summer's tour to South Africa and the preceding Six Nations.

Asked if he had chosen his World Cup captain, Gatland told the BBC: "No, not at all. Not at the moment. We've had some discussions about that. I can tell you now that it may be a joint role. I'm looking at the competition within the team and there are going to be some tough calls and some tough selections.

"We did in 2018 when we went to Argentina when we picked Cory Hill and Ellis Jenkins in terms of doing that role, and they did a fantastic job with that.

"It's going to be a tough decision in terms of who's going to be captain, and it might be the right time that we end up with joint captains or something like that. It's not set in stone but we're definitely having those discussions at the moment about who's in contention and who could potentially captain Wales in the World Cup."

The likes of Owens and Biggar will be in the mix, along with Adam Beard, Jac Morgan and potentially some younger candidates.

Poll: How far will Wales go at the World Cup? Have your say here or below

Francis exit could free up funds

The Ospreys are losing Tomas Francis to France a year before his contract was due to expire, but his departure will free up money in their budget for potential reinforcements.

Francis is joining ProD2 outfit Provence and his early exit from his contract could also see the Ospreys boosted by a compensation fee after the WRU granted his departure.

The tighthead prop will remain available for Wales and is currently with the Rugby World Cup training squad.

The move is yet to be officially confirmed by the Ospreys. WalesOnline first reported his impending exit two weeks ago and WRU CEO Nigel Walker and coach Warren Gatland have now confirmed he is leaving.

Wales U20 internationals move to England

Two more Welsh rugby players have joined the exodus to the English Championship, both signing for champions Jersey Reds.

Wales Under 20 internationals Daf Hughes and Joe Peard were announced on Wednesday.

Hooker Hughes is a Scarlets academy product who shone on the Wales U20s stage and has captained the region in the URC.

Second row Peard made the move to Cardiff in the summer of 2022 after emerging through the Dragons pathway.

Vunipola back for England

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

Billy Vunipola has forced his way into England's planning for the World Cup as Steve Borthwick revealed the Saracens number eight is eager to seize his opportunity.

Vunipola was overlooked entirely for Borthwick's maiden Six Nations as head coach but on Monday he was selected in the first training squad of the summer as preparations begin for France 2023.

And while the powerful back row is still recovering from the surgery needed to repair knee damage sustained against La Rochelle in April, he is expected to be available in time for the four warm-up Tests in August.

Alex Dombrandt filled the number eight jersey for the Six Nations but Vunipola brings with him 68 caps as well as a unique ball-carrying threat.

"Billy tells me he's just about ready to go now. He said 'hold me back right now!' He's doing really well," Borthwick said.

"I've been impressed by not only how hard he's working when he's training and rehabbing, but everything he's doing away from that as well.

"He's certainly part of our plans as we go forward and I'm looking forward to the point when Billy is back on the grass."

Vunipola was a shock omission from Borthwick's first squad in the wake of replacing Eddie Jones amid speculation that the two were not on talking terms because of a fall out during the 2019 World Cup.

Read more:

The three Wales rugby players who won the squad fitness competition

Wales rugby star Josh Navidi and police appeal for help

Warren Gatland wouldn't have taken Wales job if he'd known full picture as he addresses World Cup withdrawals and Rhys Carre

Nigel Walker makes bid to keep WRU job as regions to get new money within days

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