Bristol boss Pat Lam has expressed sympathy for Wales boss Wayne Pivac having to release his half-dozen Gallagher Premiership-based players back to their clubs this weekend, but he has insisted the to-and-fro situation will only change when the WRU started paying English teams for Test player release. 

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While Bristol scrum-half Harry Randell, for instance, is off-limits to Lam for Friday night’s match against Bath as he is with England at their camp in St George’s Park, out-half Callum Sheedy travelled back from Wales on Thursday to link up with the Bears for their Ashton Gate league derby where he will sit on the bench as back-up to starting No10 Ioan Lloyd.

Wales have six English-based players while Scotland have ten, including skipper Stuart Hogg who is set to line out for Exeter at Worcester. Under Premiership Rugby rules, all these non-England players are expected to return to their clubs during an international period if they are not selected in a match-day 23, in the two fallow weeks of the Six Nations and this weekend prior to the start of the tournament.

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Wales sought a dispensation to reduce the risk of any of their players testing positive for the virus, Pivac claiming: “With Covid, you would like to think that common sense will come into play: moving in and out of bubbles is when the transmission rate takes off.”

However, the Welsh will only hold on to the Premiership six during the week of a match, a situation that has meant Sheedy has returned to the Bristol fold for this weekend’s action. “The reasons why England are able to stay together is they pay the clubs, simple as that,” said Lam ahead of the Premiership derby between his league leaders and ninth place Bath.

“I totally understand. If I was in Wayne’s shoes I’d want exactly the same. No problem. Just got to pay the clubs because we pay the guys’ wages. The boys can’t afford to miss the games. We are paying their main wages but if the Welsh Rugby Union want to make that happen or the Scottish, all they have to do is pay the clubs for the players. But ultimately if not they have got to come back.

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“It works well for the players because the players don’t really want to be, certainly Callum, our guys would like to come back if they are not involved. There is no point being 24th man in training and not playing the international game and not playing club games (because of it). 

“It works well in that sense but I understand where Wayne is coming from. Certainly, if I was doing international rugby that is what I would want. In England, we do it because the RFU pay the clubs for it.”

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