Stop punishing players with harsh 60-cap rule, says ex Wales international

Welsh rugby is punishing players with the 60-cap rule, says a former Welsh international.

Aled Brew, who’s played for all four Welsh regions and across the border, said Welsh rugby needs players’ input if it is to survive the current turmoil.

“Give the professional players a voice as well – fundamentally it’s their lives as well they’re playing with,” said Brew.  

“Get the right people making the right decisions.”

A week before Wales face England in the Six Nation the players’ future has been dominating the headlines. Players who are out of contract at the end of the season can’t be offered new deals because of uncertainty over regional squad budgets.

The WRU sets those budgets but is yet to agree how much funding they will give the four regions — Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets — after this season.

Some international players say this has left them uncertain of their future and may lead those with contracts expiring in a few months leaving Wales to play elsewhere.

The 60-cap rule

Any Welsh player who chooses to sign a contract outside of Wales cannot play for their country unless they have won 60 caps or more.

Former winger Brew used current star Rhys Webb as an example of why this makes players unhappy.

“He’s given a lot to his country and his club and when he decided to leave he was punished and couldn’t continue to play for Wales,” said Brew.

“For someone like that who’s given a lot for the jersey it’s a harsh rule.

“I understand why they brought it in but it can be restrictive to other players coming through. 

“It probably needs adjustments.”

Brew says the fear that scrapping the 60-cap rule will weaken Welsh rugby isn’t necessarily true “mainly because you’ve got some players who are international players but don’t play that often for their region, so it wouldn’t have much effect on them”.

Uncertainty for players

On Wednesday, all of the squad’s Wales-based players met with the WRU’s interim chief executive Nigel Walker. They asked for the 60-cap rule to be scraped.

“As an ex-professional player I wouldn’t like to be in that position,” said Brew.

“You’ve got a couple months left of the season and you’re not sure how much you’re going to earn or if you’re going to get a contract.

“There’s no sort of transparency at the moment coming from the region or the WRU.”

Brew sees both sides of the argument though and understands the differing views.

“You can’t just keep hemorrhaging money,” he said.

“It’s not efficient and you can’t keep doing it because the longevity of the rugby world will suffer.

“You can see why the WRU are saying ‘Right then, you got X amount of money every year and now you’ve you sort of squandered some of that money’.”

Semi-pro game needs help

Brew, who has played in England and France, says the leagues are more competitive than those in Wales and that’s why players want to be able to play outside Wales.

“The Gallagher Premiership is a lot more exciting especially to watch – to play in it’s a bit more intense,” he said.

“France is exactly the same. They are developing quality international players where as we have four regional teams and a shabbily funded semi-professional set up – you can see why France are doing well. 

“We need to develop our semi-pro to get up to a strong standard again.”