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Gatland plays down Faletau fears

Published 25/06/2015

Taulupe Faletau, pictured, will not face any selection issues if he decides to leave Wales and join Bath, says national team coach Warren Gatland.
Taulupe Faletau, pictured, will not face any selection issues if he decides to leave Wales and join Bath, says national team coach Warren Gatland.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has declared that Taulupe Faletau would not be hampered by rules favouring home-based players over those playing elsewhere should the number eight join Bath.

Faletau has a year left on his Newport Gwent Dragons contract but it seems increasingly likely he will be bought out of that deal with Aviva Premiership club Bath keen to sign the British and Irish Lions forward.

The Dragons' local rivals Cardiff Blues have also expressed their interest in the 24-year-old but Gatland does not believe Tongan-born Faletau wants to play for another Welsh region.

It has been suggested that the 45-times capped Faletau moving to play his club rugby in England could present problems for the Wales coach under the so-called 'Gatland's Law', which will permit only two wildcard selections from those playing outside the country after this autumn's World Cup.

But Gatland, speaking at the final Wales press call before his squad depart for a pre-World Cup training camp in Switzerland was keen to set the record straight over the terms of the 2014 deal struck between the Welsh Rugby Union and the country's four professional regions concerning the selection of players abroad.

"We're discussing it (Faletau's situation) at the moment with the Dragons, the regions and Bath," Gatland said.

"Toby's got the biggest choice to make, that's on-going and hopefully that gets sorted out in the next week.

"There is potential there for Toby to move, that's up to him, but he wouldn't be hampered by that.

"There are exceptions in the policy and one of them with a country as small as Wales is that we have to look at the financial considerations.

"The regions argued for financial reasons that a player could be released from his contract and that's what has happened in this situation.

"When clubs come looking for Toby and offer a significant transfer fee then it's a business decision for one of our regions to potentially sell that player on, because they are struggling financially.

"So if Toby does leave he would be protected. He would be one of the players on that quota list because someone's come looking for him and it's not his decision to go."

Gatland also confirmed that should Faletau move, there would be a full release clause in his Bath contract guaranteeing his availability for all Wales games.

This would avoid the problems that some players - notably Lions wing George North at Northampton Saints - have encountered in the past and missed international matches.

"My understanding is that he would do the same as Jamie Roberts," Gatland said.

"If he didn't have full release we wouldn't be considering releasing him. Why would you do that?

"I'm going to speak to Toby but my understanding is that he is quite happy to stay at the Dragons.

"I don't think he's that keen on going to any other region, but maybe he would see an opportunity to go across the water (River Severn) as a good challenge for him.

"He's given some excellent service to the Dragons and I'll speak to him and his father about it."

Gatland confirmed that utility back Liam Williams faces a fight to be fit for the World Cup after being sidelined for at least 10 weeks with a foot injury.

Williams had surgery on Wednesday and the 24-year-old has already been ruled out of the two World Cup warm-up games against Ireland in August.

Wales' first World Cup game is against Uruguay on September 20 but Gatland said he had no plans to call up a replacement into his squad.

"We won't be calling anyone else up as I am optimistic he'll be ready," said Gatland, who has already lost centre Jonathan Davies for the entire tournament.

"He's been complaining about a sore foot for a while.

"It's a shame he's picked up that injury, so he's going to spend a bit of time with the Scarlets and we're going to condition him off his feet.

"Hopefully he can show some positive signs to get back in contention."

Gatland is also confident Samson Lee will be fit for the World Cup after the tight-head prop ruptured an Achilles tendon during the Six Nations victory over Ireland in March.

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