Breaking down Wales' new selection policy for overseas based players

Rob Howley

Until now, players based outside Wales required one of four wildcard picks to represent their country under the so-called "Gatland's Law".

New Zealander Gatland, who has been in charge of Wales since late 2007, will leave his post after the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Under the new system, stars playing outside Wales will only be available for worldwide selection if they have won 60 caps or more.

The change means in future any player taking up a new contract not with a Welsh region must have won 60 caps to be eligible to play for Wales.

Wales' new Senior Player Selection Policy, which is similar to that used in Australia, will not immediately impact those now under contract at non-Welsh clubs, meaning players like Williams, who joined Saracens on a three-year deal from the start of the current season, has plenty of time to add to his existing tally of 43 caps. This will apply to Rhys Webb who only has 28 caps.

Fly-half Dan Biggar is another player who could soon be out of the Wales set-up.

That means Biggar will need to accumulate four more worldwide appearances before the end of his current contract.

Martyn Phillips, the Welsh Rugby Union chief executive, announced today that Wales will now follow an Australian-style caps rule as criteria for... What is also important is that current contracts will be honoured, therefore, players such as Liam Williams, who left last summer, will still be eligible for selection, even though he has less than 60 caps.

"After that, they can make a decision - stay in Wales or some of them, as they come to the end of their career, maybe look at opportunities to play and experience a lifestyle change, and also maybe a significant financial reward for their services to Welsh rugby".

How does the new policy work?

"So I think in the next few weeks there's a few potentially couple of tough decisions to make, but hopefully those get ironed out".

Under the previous system introduced in 2014, coach Warren Gatland was able to select up to three players based outside of Wales.

Speaking to reporters after their AGM, Welsh RU chairman and former global fly-half Gareth Davies said: "We've been very busy boys over the last six months talking to various people, and we are making progress".

"The best thing for Welsh rugby and for the union to support the regions is to try and keep the best players in Wales for as long as we possibly can".

That could weaken Wales in the short term, or force the trio to reconsider their club plans in order to further their worldwide careers, which would also strengthen the local game.

On social media some Wales supporters are furious about a rule change that will see their "best player" Webb miss out on selection.

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