Getting out of a pre-agreement with Toulon will not be easy for Webb

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Players with 60 or more Jersey Wales caps can play globally
Wales face going to the World Cup in Japan without two of the players who toured New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions this summer following a change in the policy governing players who are based in France and England.

The old, complicated format, which put a cap on the number of exiles the Wales head coach Warren Gatland was allowed to select and only applied to players who had turned down a contract offer from one of Wales’s four regions, was replaced on Monday with a rule that snares players with fewer than 60 caps who from now on base themselves outside the country.
It means the Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb, who has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Toulon next season, would be unavailable for selection, as would the Gloucester flanker Ross Moriarty if he signs a new contract with the Kingsholm Lane Johnson Authentic Jersey club, who are anxious to keep him, but it does not affect players on current deals with Premiership clubs.
“We have tried to simplify things because the old rule was not easy to understand,” Gatland said. “I am not comfortable with it in the sense that as a national coach why have a policy that means you are not able to pick some of your best players, but it is a balance.
“It is not just about what is best for the national team but, long-term, what is best for Welsh rugby. We need our regions to be competitive and we want to keep our best players in Wales. I have spoken to Rhys [who has won 28 caps]: he is 28, he has had injuries and he is thinking about his family. He may have made his decision whether he was captured by the policy or not.
“He can still get out of his Toulon contract as he has just signed a letter of agreement. He has not signed a full contract with them. Rhys needs to make his own decision: we spoke to him to say the policy was potentially going to be introduced so he was aware of it. Getting to 60 caps might take him three years and he might not get the opportunity to Lane Johnson Authentic Jersey move again.”
Getting out of a pre-agreement with Toulon will not be easy for Webb, who was the scrum-half replacement in all three Lions Tests in June, scoring a try in the first. The owner, Mourad Boudjellal, played hardball when the Australia outside-half Quade Cooper tried to abort his move to the club, saying that getting out of an agreement to sign would cost the player more than £150,000. Cooper made the move.
“It would be a different scenario if the regions said he should be able to play for Wales because he had already made the decision to move, but I do not know whether that will happen,” Gatland said. “You have to feel for Rhys and my point of view is that we will not be able to pick a world-class player.”
“It’s a real blow that I won’t be able to play international rugby from next season,” Webb is quoted as saying by Wales Online. “I didn’t know the full implications when I agreed to join Toulon because the change in the selection policy came out after I signed.
“I have given 10 years service to the Ospreys and Welsh rugby and have picked up injuries along the way. I would have hoped that would have been taken into consideration. I still very much want to play for Wales this season and hope I can gain selection for the autumn international squad.”
Webb’s half-back partner at Ospreys and another Lion, Dan Biggar, is joining Northampton next season but he is only four caps away from reaching 60. “It would be tough if Dan suffered an injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season,” the national coach said. “He told me that the Northampton offer was life-changing and that while he loved playing for Wales, at his age it was the right move.”


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