Rhys Webb says he was unaware he was jeopardising his Wales career when he agreed to sign for Top 14 side Toulon.
The Ospreys scrum-half will make himself ineligible for selection when he heads to the south of France at the end of the season, after the WRU brought in a new 60-cap cut-off point to replace the convoluted Senior Players Selection Policy – also known as Gatland’s Law
From next season, Welsh players plying their trade outside the Principality will only be able to represent Wales if they have won 60 or more caps.
It means Webb, who has 28 Welsh caps, will be forced into international exile for the length of his three-year contract in the south of France. He would only be considered for the national team if he moves back to one of Wales’s four regional sides.
Webb told Wales Online: “I am very disappointed at the news because I love playing for Wales. It means a huge amount to me.”
And he insisted he had no idea of the impending changes: “I didn’t know the full implications when I agreed to join Toulon because the change in the selection policy came out after I signed.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland, however, claims that both player and agent entered the Toulon negotiations with their eyes wide open. “They were aware this policy may be introduced,” he said.
He added that that he believes Webb could still walk away from the French deal.
Toulon have lost scrum-halves to changes of mind before. Like Webb, France’s South African-born international Rory Kockott had signed a letter of agreement to join the club from the 2014/15 season before changing his mind and opting to stay at Castres Olympique. It was a decision that would cost his employers €400,000.
Injuries permitting, Dan Biggar should cross the 60-cap mark before he moves to Northampton next summer, while Saracens’ Liam Williams will also remain available for selection, despite only having 43 caps, as he joined the English club on a three-year deal before the announcement was made. He has time to pass the 60-cap threshold before his current deal runs out.
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