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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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'If I don't play for Exeter, then I don't get picked for Wales'

By Ian Cameron
Tomas Francis (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Wales prop Tomas Francis has described his ongoing dilemma over club versus country as ‘tough’ but says there is ‘nothing he can do about it’ as things stand. Francis had been using a loophole in the Welsh Senior Player Selection Policy, which allowed him to stay at Exeter Chiefs by altering his current contract.

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However, that loophole is closed to him, and his stuck on 48 caps, 13 less than the 60 he needs to make the minimum criteria to play for Wales and play for a club outside of Wales. With international games currently shelved,  there is a real possibility that there might not be any more Test rugby played in 2020, which would leave Francis falling short.

Born in York, he qualifies through his Welsh grandmother. His 48 caps since RWC 2015 are the most for any Wales player in that span, albeit a significant proportion coming off the replacements bench. Speaking on Exeter Chiefs website, the big tighthead alluded to the decision that is the talk of Welsh rugby.

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Wales prop Dillon Lewis plays in the RugbyPass FIFA Pros
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Wales prop Dillon Lewis plays in the RugbyPass FIFA Pros

“Right now my focus is getting back to full fitness and playing for Exeter,” he told exeterchiefs.co.uk “If I don’t play for Exeter, then I don’t get picked for Wales, so it won’t matter. As I said, when rugby resumes my first aim will be to try and get back in the Exeter team and see where it goes from there.

“At the moment, I don’t have a decision to make on any of that. If I do, then it’s a tough decision I don’t want to make. Rob Baxter gave me a shot when I was in the Championship, so it would be tough to see why I have to leave a club that gave me a chance. I understand the rules and I see both sides of it, but right now there is nothing I can do about it.”

The 28-year-old appeared in all of Wales’ five matches in RWC 2015, starting in the contests against England and Fiji and at RWC 2019, started against Georgia, Australia, Fiji, France and South Africa.  While he has been a relatively regular option at tighthead, Pivac may plump for the young Dillon Lewis and Rhys Carre, who might present more mobile option to the 135kg Francis.

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