06.08.19 - Wales Rugby Training - Warren Gatland during training. Credit - WRU

‘The dam has burst’: Warren Gatland says players’ desire to play for Wales is fading

Gatland thinks the damaging and protracted WRU contract row has longer-term effects

WARREN Gatland believes that players’ desire to play for Wales is fading, following the damaging contract row with the Wales Rugby Union (WRU).

Wednesday’s resolution deal has, for now, staved off threats of a player strike, meaning that a sold-out Principality Stadium will roar on Wales against England on February 25.

Despite agreement to lower the controversial 60-cap rule to 25, and give players a voice in future negotiations, Gatland feels the settlement deal was “impulsive” and done too quickly.

“As a national side we’re not being successful. The desire to play for Wales and be in Wales potentially isn’t as strong as it was,” said Gatland.

“The dam has burst now. It’s burst because the regions feel that they are underfunded and haven’t got the success the players want.”

After a delay due to the uncertainty, Gatland eventually named his squad to face England on February 23. It included nine changes from the defeat to Scotland, including Leigh Halfpenny and Louis Rees-Zammit’s first appearance of the Six Nations.

They come into the game against England at a crossroads. Defeat to the ‘old enemy’ in Cardiff would see Wales slip to tenth in the Rugby World Rankings, their joint-lowest in history. If Italy manage to upset Ireland on top of this, Wales would slip to an unprecedented eleventh.

Wales currently sit bottom of the table with zero points, following heavy defeats to Ireland and Scotland. They have not finished bottom of the Six Nations since 2003. Their final fixtures see them play Italy and France away from home.

England are also in a transition period. Steve Borthwick has replaced Eddie Jones at the helm and, despite a rocky start to their Six Nations campaign, England come to Cardiff as favourites.