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Chief Phillips tackles Welsh regions

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'Doing nothing isn't an option and nothing has been off the table'

Saturday’s Principality Stadium euphoria surrounding Wales’ Six Nations ambush of England had one negative consequence – amid the giddy celebrations the important match programme notes written by WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips went under the radar.

There has been much unsettling speculation regarding the future of the four-team regional set-up in Wales which has continuously failed to deliver Champions Cup success.

Budgetary concerns this winter even led to allegations that teams could be amalgamated amid delays over agreement of a player pay structure for next season.

That sparked fears the WRU are at loggerheads with its clubs at a time when the national team is hunting down a Six Nations Grand Slam.

But Phillips has assured Welsh rugby fans that the WRU and the regions are united in their search for bold solutions to make their club rugby consistently more competitive at European and PRO14 level.

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“The formation of the new PRB sees the chairs of the regional sides working closely with the WRU executive and the regional head coaches working closely with the WRU coaches and performance teams. We work as one team,” he wrote.

“It is early days but we are already seeing the benefits with previously ignored hot topics now being the subject of energetic debate.

“The inconvenient truth is that in the professional era we have generally only managed to have one regional side performing in the latter stages of competitions in any given season.

“In Europe we have never managed to win the top-tier competition. Things needs to change. So, whilst we have seen some success, we are determined to make the necessary changes to ensure the long-term and successful sustainability of the game – for our players and supporters in particular.

“Doing nothing isn’t an option and nothing has been off the table in terms of what has been discussed. We know we have the playing talent in Wales and we have stepped up our focus and investment in coach development.

“We are also in the middle of a review to revamp our academy structures so that young players in Wales, regardless of where they live, get the opportunity to fulfil their potential and hopefully pull on the famous red jersey.

Wales packed out Principality Stadium for its win over England but its regional sides are far less popular (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

“Off the field we have left no stone unturned. We need to make changes to grow attendances, commercial income and give supporters the freedom to support the team where they have most affinity.

“We need to use any new investment to strengthen squads, improve facilities, develop coaches and importantly to continue to invest in the community game where all the players come from.

“We have been busy and bold in our outlook. We are entering a period of rapid change for rugby in Wales and around the world… we will ensure we remain at the forefront of the game and put in place measures to ensure success for club and country.”

Crunch talks were held on Friday on the eve of Wales’ Six Nations win over England and they apparently led to hands being shaken on a long-awaited deal between the WRU and the regions over the financial resourcing of its Project Reset system.

The promise was made that the budgets for next year would be the same as this season, ending fears of possible job cuts and team amalgamations.

If so, that would permit the regions to finally start organising their recruitment and laying the foundation for 2019/20 after they had been left unable to sign new players or re-sign those who are heading towards free-agent status at the end of this season.

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'Doing nothing isn't an option and nothing has been off the table'