Wales delay squad announcement for England Six Nations game amid potential strike action

Wales have delayed their squad announcement ahead of taking on England in the Six Nations on Saturday, amid ongoing uncertainty of potential strike action.

The row surrounds player contracts, with players saying they do not have long-term certainty as part of a new deal from the Professional Rugby Board (PRB).

The squad announcement was due to take place on Tuesday at midday and the reason for the delay is unclear.

In a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Wales’ head coach Warren Gatland said he was “confident” the match against England would go ahead as planned.

Gatland added that the developments off the pitch had been a “challenge” but the players had “trained well” in spite of the dispute.

Gatland, who returned to take charge of Wales in December, replacing Wayne Pivac, said he wished he “would have known a few things that were going on” when he took the job and described his time back in charge of the squad as a “whirlwind”.

The Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) represents Welsh players and has criticised Wales rugby bosses, saying its players “feel let down” and “have had enough” amid delays over agreeing new contracts.

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It added that the delay is having a “profound effect” on players, particularly those out of contract, and is “placing unacceptable strain on mental health and overall wellbeing”.

Negotiations have been ongoing since January, but so far an agreement is yet to be reached.

Further talks are set to take place between the PRB and the WRPA on Wednesday.

The PRB, which is made up of representatives from the five professional entities in Welsh rugby: the WRU, Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Rugby and Dragons, said that “clubs have been paying salaries that their businesses cannot afford”.

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A six-year deal has reportedly been verbally agreed which would introduce a salary cap, a new approach to releasing players for international matches and a formal framework that co-ordinates contract negotiations across all four of Wales’ regional sides as well as the nation’s professional squad.

But players want to scrap the rule which means that only players with 60 caps or more can play for a club outside of Wales and still play for the national team.

They also want to be represented on the Professional Rugby Board and are unhappy with a variable salary set to be introduced next season which would mean 20 per cent of players’ salary would be based on bonuses.

With uncertainty off the field, the performance on the field has not been as Wales would have hoped, having lost their first two games in the championship for the first time in 16 years.