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Three Lions on Wales' wildcard list

Published 09/09/2016

Northampton wing George North is among a group of players who will require a wildcard selection to play for Wales this season
Northampton wing George North is among a group of players who will require a wildcard selection to play for Wales this season

Three British and Irish Lions are among seven players who will require wildcard selections to play for Wales this season.

Northampton wing George North, Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts and Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau have been named by the Welsh Rugby Union on a seven-strong list of individuals impacted by the WRU's senior player selection policy.

The policy, Welsh rugby's so-called Gatland's Law, will first take effect for November Tests against Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

Rob Howley, who will be Wales' head coach this term while Warren Gatland concentrates on Lions business ahead of next summer's 10-match New Zealand tour, can only select three wildcard players from the list for each international campaign.

The list also includes Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland, who looks the highest-profile player set to miss out on selection, plus Dominic Day, Nicky Thomas and Rhodri Williams.

The WRU's senior selection policy is aimed at ensuring players play domestic rugby in Wales.

But it does not affect players who agreed contracts with clubs outside Wales, such as Toulon's Leigh Halfpenny, before the policy was launched.

The policy is part of the Rugby Services Agreement (RSA) between the WRU and four Welsh professional regions - the Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons - which was signed in August 2014 and runs for six years.

WRU group chief executive Martyn Phillips said: "The RSA is the foundation of our professional game in that it is the basis on which we collaborate with the regions to ensure we make decisions that are in the best interests of the game as a whole, and for a broad range of stakeholders.

"We want to create the best environment possible for the players.

"Having our best players in Wales will help the regions to be successful, and their presence will inspire the next generation of supporters and players. We know that supporters want to see the best players playing on a regular basis.

"Players based in Wales will benefit as, together with the regions, we can manage the players' game-time, development and welfare. We can work closely on player release and have our younger players learning from more experienced professionals. We know that coaches also value regular and easy access to players.

"With three 'wildcard' selections available for each campaign during the 2016/17 season, decisions will have to be made on selection.

"Players have been aware that there would come a point, if they left or signed new contracts outside Wales, that the policy would impact on selection.

"We are aware that supporters may be concerned that we will not be selecting from a full list of players, but the alternative where players increasingly play outside Wales isn't sustainable for the long-term success of our game, whether that be professional or community rugby.

"Clearly, the player ultimately has the choice, but we will do all we can to ensure that playing in Wales gives the player the best professional rugby experience possible.

"With the likes of Jonathan Davies, Bradley Davies, Matthew Morgan and Dan Lydiate returning to play their club rugby in Wales, and the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb choosing to stay in the light of the policy, we believe this is a strategy that will promote the long-term health of the game."

Wales' squad for the autumn Tests will be announced on October 18.

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