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Wales Online
Katie Sands

Tonight's rugby news as Jamie Roberts lays it on the line with one of two choices left

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Monday, February 20.

Jamie Roberts outlines next step

Jamie Roberts believes Welsh professional rugby must either be fully centralised by the Welsh Rugby Union or move to a wholly benefactor model when it looks to emerge from its financial crisis.

A new six-year financial agreement between the WRU and Wales' four professional regions - Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets - has not yet been signed off in writing after months of discussion. The regions are braced for financial cuts, but no playing budgets have been finalised for next season, so no contracts can be offered in writing. The situation has led to a threat of strike action by Wales players, leaving the upcoming Guinness Six Nations clash against England on Saturday in jeopardy.

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Speaking on BT Sport's Rugby Tonight, former Wales and Lions centre Roberts said: "Let's look at New Zealand, Ireland and England as examples of rugby union. This is where I struggle to see a way forward for Welsh rugby in its alignment and strategy.

"New Zealand is centralised, all decision-making is done by the New Zealand Rugby Union on player contracts and finances, etc. Ireland is the same, and we see the strength of Irish rugby at the minute, I'm envious of the strength of Irish rugby. A similar sized demographic, four clubs who sit at the top table of the URC and in Europe, and obviously at Test rugby at the minute.

"England, on the other hand, is a benefactor model. Decision-making is done at club level because it's a strictly benefactor model.

"In Wales, we're neither one or the other. So there is a continuous battle for power and to have influence. Neither party fully invests and fully pays in it, no one knows where they really stand. You see this lack of alignment between clubs and country. I would argue Welsh rugby can't truly move forward until it becomes one or the other of those: it's either centralised or it's a fully benefactor model."

As for the prospect of strike action, Roberts added: "I think the union have to respect the players' voice in this. It's a talent business, and if you don't invest in your talent you've got no business. That's the black and white of it."

Sir Clive: Wales strike 'could well be the final nail in the Welsh coffin'

Sir Clive Woodward has warned that a Wales strike for the Six Nations clash with England "could well be the final nail in the Welsh coffin".

Arguing there will be no easy or quick fix, he says he understands why Welsh rugby's players at both international and domestic level have "had enough and a strike is a real possibility".

Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Sir Clive said: "I hope it doesn't come to a strike with Wales. If a Six Nations game were cancelled because of this, it would be counter-productive and another serious body blow to rugby as a sport.

"It could well be the final nail in the Welsh coffin. I can see why the players are threatening such action because things have to change in Wales. Sadly, it is in a mess from top to bottom right now and the path back to the top looks a long one.

"I don't see any strong leadership or real business experience at the top of the Welsh Rugby Union and that should be of real concern to everyone."

Brian Moore 'amazed' by Wales success amid regional 'non-viability'

Brian Moore says he is amazed that Wales have succeeded in recent history despite the "non-viability" of the Welsh regions.

The former England and Lions hooker said the current financial impasse is "just another detail in many years of poor management decisions".

Writing in his column for The Telegraph, he said: "I have been highlighting the non-viability of the Welsh regions for more than 10 years, and it amazes me that the national team have succeeded, despite their transitional level progressively crumbling. What is now apparent is that the supply of young talent is, finally, dwindling and I am surprised it has taken so long.

"Perhaps the Welsh Rugby Union should, finally, look to take financial control of its regions instead of concentrating on capital projects. That would end the habitual panic when the season-end figures are released.

"The Welsh game cannot go on stumbling from one short-term deal to another. It is not commercially viable and is unfair on players who have to try to plan careers and families, and it will not work.

"By the way, the loser of Saturday’s game will likely finish fifth or bottom of the Six Nations – try selling that to punters and sponsors."

'We will look after Jack'

Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan has said Jack Dixon will be looked after in the wake of the centre picking up a serious ankle injury at the weekend.

Dixon, 28, limped off injured at half-time as the Dragons lost 43-14 to United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster, just days after speaking candidly about how the fear of injury was hanging over him amid Welsh rugby's contracts/budgets mess.

On Thursday, he said: "My contract runs out in three or four months’ time. I have a two-year-old in the house, my wife is pregnant with another baby towards the end of this year and I don’t know if I’ve got income coming in June, July and next year yet. Nothing’s been said. The uncertainty to us as human beings is appalling. When you take the field you try to park it as best you can, but, subconsciously, in the back of your mind, you are one big injury from being thrown out the door, to put it frankly.”

Speaking post-match, Dragons boss Flanagan told S4C: "He's upset in the changing room, obviously the group are upset for him. We'll make sure we look after Jack Dixon."

As for the prospect of player strikes, he added: "The players will make decisions that they need to make and I support the players 100% on the decisions they need to make."

Flanagan previously vowed that the Dragons would honour verbal offers made to the players if they suffered injury while waiting for deals to be rubber-stamped.

Carbery named in Ireland squad to face Italy as cover for Sexton

Ireland have recalled fly-half Joey Carbery to their squad for Saturday's Guinness Six Nations clash against Italy in Rome. Munster's Carbery, 27, has been drafted in as additional cover for Johnny Sexton, who is recovering from a leg injury sustained in Ireland's 32-19 win against France in Dublin nine days ago.

Carbery was overlooked for Ireland's initial Six Nations squad, with Leinster's Ross Byrne preferred as a back-up number 10 in their opening two victories.

Prop Cian Healy and hooker Dan Sheehan have both been included in Andy Farrell's 37-man squad after recovering from respective hamstring injuries.

Tadhg Beirne will miss the rest of the tournament after being ruled out for up to 12 weeks. He has had ankle surgery after being forced off early in the second half against France.

Fellow second row Joe McCarthy, has also been ruled out of rest of the Six Nations campaign due to an ankle injury. McCarthy's Leinster team-mate, flanker Scott Penny, and Ulster second row Kieran Treadwell have been added to the squad, but versatile back Keith Earls remains sidelined due to a calf problem.

Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong remain injured and hooker Rob Herring is continuing his return to play protocol after sustaining a head injury against France.


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