Lydiate among 12 offered dual deals
Wales flanker Dan Lydiate is among a group of players to be offered national dual contracts.
The new deals are funded 60 per cent by the Welsh Rugby Union and 40 per cent by the four Welsh professional regions, providing a £3.3million total pot.
They are the product of a new six-year Rugby Services Agreement thrashed out between the WRU and Pro Rugby Wales, the umbrella organisation for Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons.
Lydiate is currently without a team after being released early from his contract with French club Racing Metro. It is thought he will either link up with his former team the Dragons or head to the Ospreys.
The WRU said 12 players, including Lydiate, had been offered contracts that were sent out on Tuesday "for the players' full consideration". They will all play for Welsh regions.
Wales captain Sam Warburton is currently the only dual contracted player, but a number of other seasoned internationals are expected to follow suit, plus a handful of young prospects, possibly including Hallam Amos and his 19-year-old Dragons colleague Tyler Morgan.
Head coach Warren Gatland, who has overseen the player contractual selection process, said: "This is an important step forward for Welsh rugby, and we will reap rewards in playing standards over the long term.
"Any player on a national dual contract will remain in Wales with a region, where their development and welfare can be monitored by me and my national squad coaches, conditioners and medical staff.
"I want to personally thank the staff from each of the four regions for their help in getting the national dual contracts up and running.
"In particular, I would really like to thank the regions for their help in facilitating Dan Lydiate's return to Wales. It wasn't something that we had envisaged so early, or budgeted for, so I would like to thank them for their help."
Lydiate will start for Wales against world champions New Zealand on Saturday, with hooker Richard Hibbard also packing down following his Aviva Premiership appearance for Gloucester last week.
Wales ruled Hibbard unfit to face Fiji three days ago because of an ankle problem. He was then released back to Gloucester at their request, and he made a brief appearance as substitute the previous evening against Harlequins.
It left Gatland seeking clarity on Hibbard's injury position, and the Wales coach admitted it had not been "an easy situation". He met with Hibbard when the player rejoined the Wales squad on Monday.
"For a player to be fit for a Test match you want him to be able to train all week," Gatland added.
"We managed him for the first couple of weeks (in training) when he was not involved in every session. The first two days (last week) we put him in a boot and he was not being considered for the Fiji weekend.
"Gloucester had been doing the same with him, and when he went back and was fitness-tested by them, they felt the injury had not been any worse than it had been and deemed him good enough to be on the bench.
"It is not an easy situation. The player felt a little bit under pressure, that he would be on the bench and not required unless there was an injury.
"If you sit on the bench, there is always the possibility you will play 79 or 80 minutes, and he played 10 and was sore afterwards. It is one for us to be aware of going forward.
"There is some criticism of us, too. We did not speak to Gloucester until the Wednesday, and we should have communicated with them on the Monday or the Tuesday that we had put him in a boot and (he) was not fit for the game.
"We need to look at ourselves with regards to that.
"For all of us, we could perhaps learn so that it potentially does not happen again and it is a little bit more seamless. I can see both sides of everything."
Warburton, meanwhile, has underlined the magnitude of Saturday's All Blacks clash as Wales seek a first victory over New Zealand since 1953.
"When I was a bit younger, beating the All Blacks, being part of a winning Lions tour and winning the World Cup were the top three things you could do at international level. One down, two to go," he said.
"This Saturday is a great opportunity to tick off another box. We have a chance to create history."