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'It's unfortunate it's been leaked' - Welsh axe fears addressed in TV interview

By Ian Cameron
A general view during the United Rugby Championship match between Scarlets and Connacht at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli, Wales. (Photo By Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Welsh Rugby Union performance director Nigel Walker has heavily hinted that none of the country’s four regions will be cut.

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A leaked independent report made a recommendation to the WRU that they cut the regions from four to three, with the Dragons or the Ospreys the most likely get the chop. The Oakwell Sports Advisory advised the move, but Walker has said that it is a recommendation that ‘nobody wants’.

Walker appeared on the Scrum V over the weekend and took questions on the Wayne Pivac’s floundering Wales and was asked were the Welsh regions in ‘crisis’ after one of the worst seasons since their inception.

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Even by the standards of what has been an abject campaign for the Welsh, this weekend’s results have made for hard viewing. The Dragons signed off by going an entire league campaign without a home win, while Cardiff conceded 10 tries thanks to a hammering at the hands of Benetton. The Scarlets and the Ospreys both lost at home.

Not one region made the last eight of the United Rugby Championship.

“That’s one way of putting it. I wouldn’t characterise it in that way,” Walker told the Scrum V panel. “Yes, we have some challenges to overcome, but they are not peculiar to Welsh rugby. France have had to go through a difficult period, England are going through a difficult period at the moment.

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“There needs to be a correction. We need to work together. The PRB, which is charged with setting the strategy, charting the direction of travel for the professional game in Wales, is talking about those things.

“The one option which has been mentioned is four (regions) to three, nobody in Welsh rugby wants to go from four to three. The regions don’t want it, the WRU don’t want it.

“It was an independent report commissioned by the PRB. Some might say it’s semantics, but it’s not a WRU report. It came up with a whole raft of options, of which one has been selected. It’s 85 pages long! It was commissioned early in the new year, it was delivered in February. The regions and WRU have been talking about it for quite a few months.”

The 59-year-old Walker took up the post of performance director after 11 years as national director at the English Institute of Sport. He believes an agreement will need to be made in the next number of months as to how the PRB proceeds.

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“It’s unfortunate that it’s been leaked, but now it’s in the public domain, people know we are considering these things very carefully.

“The important thing is that the PRB statement, after the recent meeting, said sustainability and success. That’s what everybody is concentrating on. We have to have agreement in weeks rather than months, that would be my view.

“The discussion we are having is, what does success look like for regional rugby? We need our regions to be successful and the WRU recognises we need our regions to be successful otherwise the national team won’t be successful.”

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