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Gatland hopeful over dual contracts

Warren Gatland hopes that Wales' first dual-contracted players could be signed up during the next "three or four weeks".

A number of Test stars are set to pen deals that will be funded by the Welsh Rugby Union and Wales' four professional regional teams.

The initiative is part of a new six-year agreement recently thrashed out between the WRU and regions following months of often bitter in-fighting.

An annual pot of £3.3million will fund national player contracts, with the WRU making a 60 per cent contribution and regions 40 per cent.

Wales captain Sam Warburton has already been moved from a central contract to a dual one, while colleagues who sign dual deals could include the likes of Alun-Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Taulupe Faletau, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Biggar.

"We have put a list together and we have to present that to the PRGB (Professional Regional Game Board) about potential players we are interested in," Wales coach Gatland said.

"We have got a finite amount of money. Hopefully, we can get between 10 and 15 players to be on those dual contracts and for the players to be excited about being on them.

"The money is there, it is coming from the same pot, it's just how it's being spread out. Hopefully, in the next three or four weeks we will get players signed on a national dual contract.

"For them, they will have the certainty of where they are going to be the next two or three years or whatever, and what is associated with having a dual contract.

"The players we are looking at for dual contracts are already in contract. They are already signed up to their clubs, so they are fairly secure."

Wales have suffered more than most during recent seasons with leading players - individuals such as Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Dan Lydiate - opting to ply their trade in France and England.

But Gatland is confident that the introduction of dual contracts could generate a reverse of that market trend.

"I can understand why players want to go to France for a short period and experience life out there - two or three seasons," he added.

"Money has been the driving factor, but then they have realised that playing in a good side and being happy, hopefully have good coaching and longevity of career, that a lot of other factors come into play about making those decisions.

"I think we will hopefully see, over the next couple of seasons, a number of players returning from France.

"We are limited by the amount of money we have got. We only have a finite amount, and possibly, the number will go down.

"Most rugby contracts, unfortunately, don't tend to go down, they tend to go up, so we will probably end up with less players on dual contracts.

"But you never know, with new TV deals and sponsorship, there might be more money to go into that pot to attract players.

"We have got to be aware of that over the next few weeks, when we do those dual contracts, to potentially leave some money there to try and attract one or two players back from overseas next season."

Gatland, meanwhile, revealed on Wednesday that Wales' preparations for the World Cup next year are set to include training camps in Switzerland and Qatar.

Gatland confirmed the plans during the launch of a new partnership between the Welsh Rugby Union and Mercedes-Benz South Wales that will see cars provided to coaches, players and staff until 2018.

The camps are set to take place ahead of Wales' World Cup warm-up games next summer.

"We have got a high-altitude camp in Switzerland, which is being planned, and we are doing a warm weather camp in Qatar," he said.

"I think we have got 12-14 days in Switzerland. We are going to sleep high, train low, going up by cable car to sleep.

"We have had that planning in place for the last three months or so and have prepared for all that.

"The thing with the altitude training is not so much that you train at it, it's just the physiological benefits you get from it.

"The challenge is doing that in Switzerland at altitude and also at 45-50 degrees centigrade in Qatar."

Under the deal with Mercedes, a total of 89 new cars will be distributed throughout the WRU's workforce, including to Gatland and his coaching assistants Rob Howley, Robin McBryde, Shaun Edwards and Neil Jenkins.

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