Warren Gatland says the 60-cap Welsh selection rule needs looking into

Warren Gatland believes that with uncertainty over the futures of several players, discussion is needed about the 60-man selection rule in Wales.

The policy was set in 2017 and players who subsequently signed contracts to trade outside of Wales were deemed ineligible for test selection unless they had won after 60 caps or more.

And the situation is now magnified with a recruitment freeze affecting four of Wales’ professional regions: Cardiff, Ospreys, Dragons and Scarlets.

Wales and Dragons block Will Rowlands

Will Rowlands to play in France next season (Mike Egerton/PA)

A new financial deal between the regions and the Welsh Rugby Union has yet to be confirmed in writing, raising concerns that players whose existing contracts expire at the end of this season could leave Wales.

Wales and Dragons lock Will Rowlands is set to join French club Racing 92 for next season.

The current selection policy means he will not be available in the Gatland squad for the World Cup later this year, unless regulations change or he receives special dispensation from the Welsh Professional Rugby Board.

“I think (the 60-cap rule) is definitely something we need to talk about,” said Wales head coach Gatland.

“We have to be pragmatic and it would be disappointing if some players missed the World Cup. Why shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t have to?

“There has been so much confusion in terms of sorting out the agreement between the union and the regions. I think that would be a positive step forward.

“I cannot blame the players for exploring options as there is a level of uncertainty in Welsh rugby at the moment, especially with those running out of contracts.

“They have to think about their own personal situation and that is completely understandable from my point of view. I would like to make sure we keep our best players in Wales.

Wales coach Warren Gatland (left) and Ireland coach Andy Farrell

Wales head coach Warren Gatland and his Irish counterpart Andy Farrell at the Guinness Six Nations kick-off (John Walton/PA)

“I don’t know if we need to look at the 60-cap rule because at the moment, is it fit for purpose with so much uncertainty in the game in Wales at the moment?”

Meanwhile, Gatland is happy to return for a second season as Wales boss ahead of Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations visit to Cardiff on February 4.

In his first stint in the job between 2008 and 2019, Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-finals.

“I think one of the things we’ve done in the past has been incredibly hard work as a group and we’ll continue to do that,” he added.

“There have been matches in the past where we were able to hold out due to our fitness and win against classy opponents.

“I know this group will work hard. If you ask them to run over a brick wall, they’ll tell you, “What do you want us to do when we get to the other side?”

“We have a new coaching group that we need to embed at short notice and it is important that we are clear on how we want to coach the team.

“We all need to sing from the same side to hopefully give us the best possible chance.”

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