Wales coach Warren Gatland (L) and Ireland coach Andy Farrell pose with the Six Nations trophy at the tournament media launch in London
London (AFP) - Wales head coach Warren Gatland said on Monday he would like the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to look again at the 60-cap selection rule following concerns it could harm the national team amid fears of a player exodus.
The rule was introduced in 2017, with players who signed contracts with clubs outside Wales deemed ineligible for international selection unless they had made 60 Test appearances or more.
Debate around the issue has intensified following a recruitment freeze for Wales’ four professional teams – Cardiff, the Dragons, the Ospreys and the Scarlets.
A new financial deal between the regions and the WRU has still to be signed off in writing, but the governing body had announced a “verbal agreement” in December.
This has led to concerns more players could follow the example of Dragons and Wales lock Will Rowlands, who is set to join French side Racing 92 when his current club contract expires at the end of the season.
As things stand, Rowlands would be ineligible to represent Wales at the Rugby World Cup later this year, unless he receives special dispensation from the Welsh game’s Professional Rugby Board.
“I think it (the 60-cap rule) is definitely something we need to talk about,” Gatland told reporters.
“We need to be pragmatic, and it would be disappointing if some players miss out on the World Cup. Why shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t need to?”
“I can’t blame players for exploring the options because there is a certain level of uncertainty in Welsh rugby at the moment, particularly for those who are out of contract.
“They need to think about their own personal situation, and that is perfectly understandable from my point of view. I would love to make sure we keep our top players in Wales.”
Gatland has recently returned for his second spell as Wales coach, with his first match back in charge the visit of world top-ranked Ireland to Cardiff for a Six Nations opener on February 4.
His first stint in charge, from 2007-19, yielded four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, and also saw Wales reach two World Cup semi-finals.
“I think that one of the things we’ve done in the past is work incredibly hard as a group, and we will continue to do that,” he said.