The Six Nations fixture between Wales and England in Cardiff on Saturday will go ahead after an agreement was reached between Welsh players and the country’s Professional Rugby Board (PRB) over contentious contract issues.
Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) acting CEO Nigel Walker confirmed the agreement to avert a strike which would have caused the game against England to be cancelled, potentially costing the union up to £10 million (US$12 million).
“The PRB has been agile and receptive to the players’ requests and the players have, equally, been responsible and reasonable in their dealings with the PRB which is a credit to all parties,” Walker said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The game is on and, whilst there is still some detail to discuss and some fine tuning to be done in our negotiations at PRB, this is undoubtedly been a linchpin moment from which we can build.”
The freeze on new contracts imposed by the PRB, which runs the professional game in the country, will be lifted next week.
There are around 70 players at regional clubs who are out of contract at the end of the 2022-23 season.
The 60-cap rule that said only players who have reached that threshold can feature for the national team if they move to a club outside of Wales has been reduced to 25 appearances.
Players will now also have the option of taking a fixed salary contract or one for a lower set wage, but which could climb higher based on performance bonuses.
The PRB had previously stated that all contracts would have 80 per cent set wages and a variable amount of 20 per cent based on performance.
The Welsh Rugby Players Association will be represented at PRB meetings, another demand made by players.
“We have listened to our players and have been able to resolve the three issues presented, quickly and efficiently,” PRB chair Malcolm Wall said.
“The six-year framework we have agreed has always had the players’ best interests at heart and we have been happy to allay their understandable concerns with the adjustments described.”
Wales captain Ken Owens admitted it has been a difficult time for the players.
“Everybody in Welsh rugby really needs to pull together now to find the best way forward and we need to do it collaboratively, together, to put Welsh rugby back at the top end of world rugby and not the laughing stock which I think we are at the moment,” he said.
Wales’s players have not trained since Tuesday as they joined colleagues from regional clubs in an 80-minute meeting with WRU and PRB officials.
Wales coach Warren Gatland will name his side to face England at 1215 GMT on Thursday.
The disruption this week was something he did not need after his side suffered heavy defeats by Ireland (34-10) and Scotland (35-7) in their opening Six Nations fixtures.