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Welsh internationals may come to realise the grass isn't always greener in France

By Niall Crozier

The exodus of France-bound Welsh internationals shows no sign of ending.

Monday saw Cardiff Blues back three player Chris Czekaj confirm his departure at the end of the season, not for one of the Top14 giants but instead to join French Pro D2 Colomiers. Even the lure of second-tier rugby in the land of the Gauls proved too much to resist.

While not of the same calibre as Toulon-bound Cardiff colleague Leigh Halfpenny, Czekaj is no slouch. In addition to 142 appearances for Cardiff – the city of his birth – he has won nine Welsh caps, including one against Ireland in February 2007 at the Millennium Stadium where the scorers in the visitors' 19-9 victory included Rory Best, who managed to touch down in the opening minute.

Czekaj is ninth in terms of appearances for the Blues and fifth, with 26, in the try-scorers chart having joined Cardiff as a 16-year-old.

And while he was able to say: "I would like to thank all the players I have been fortunate enough to play with over the years, the coaches at the Blues and also the fantastic supporters we have who have always backed me from the start," that will be of little solace to any of those he listed.

The bottom line is that Welsh rugby is losing another of its players to the green fields of France, this despite the resolution of problems as to the future of the domestic and European competitions. This haemorrhaging is ongoing and the longer it continues, the more damaging it becomes.

Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts and Dan Lydiate are at Racing Metro, while James Hook and Luke Charteris are at Perpignan. Jonathan Davies is joining Clermont Auvergne and Ian Evans and Halfpenny are heading for Toulon at the end of the season.

Wales coach Warren Gatland continues to insist that this ongoing cross-Channel flow of talent will end in the near future.

Recently, he said: "The information coming back to us from players is yes, the money's great.

"But everything else is a long way behind what they can get here in Wales in terms of medical stuff, strength and conditioning, length of season, time off in the off-season, quality of coaching and support stuff.

"So I think you'll find a lot of those players will go to France, play there for a year or two and then make the decision to come back."

Makes you think that had one or two of them sought Jonathan Sexton's advice – as Ireland colleagues Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien did when they were targeted – they might never have left their homeland.

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