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Warren Gatland makes his case for an Anglo-Welsh competition

By PA
NICE, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 16: Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland looks on during the pre match warm up ahead of the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Wales and Portugal at Stade de Nice on September 16, 2023 in Nice, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Warren Gatland has given his backing to an Anglo-Welsh competition and says it is a concept that should always be “on the table”.

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Rugby union history is crammed with traditional cross-border club rivalries, especially during the sport’s pre-professional era.

The attraction to supporters – and potentially cash-strapped Welsh regional teams – remains, and was recently underlined when Cardiff had a 12,000 full house at the Arms Park against Investec Champions Cup opponents Harlequins, while more than 10,000 attended for Bath’s visit in December.

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An official Anglo-Welsh competition previously existed in the form of a knockout tournament that ran from 2005 until 2018.

Leicester won it three times, while there were also successes for the likes of Northampton, Gloucester and Exeter.

The first four finals were held at Twickenham, attracting crowds of between 43,000 and 65,000, with two of those tournaments being won by Ospreys and Cardiff.

The competition comprised Premiership clubs and four Welsh regions, and the success of recent Anglo-Welsh fixtures in Europe highlighted how they are a winner with fans.

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“I’ve always said from a Welsh perspective we should always have an Anglo-Welsh competition on the table,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“For me that is not about the present, that is about history.

“It’s the history of those clubs like Newport, Cardiff or whatever, playing teams that are pretty close to the border in terms of Gloucester, Bath, and you’ve got Exeter now, so that goes back a long time to those traditional rivalries.

“That is something England and Wales, as unions, should potentially have going forward (an Anglo-Welsh league).

“I know the impact it might have on other competitions, but if we are just looking after ourselves and what would benefit Welsh rugby there could be an Anglo-Welsh league, and that can potentially be successful for England and Wales.”

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Gatland, meanwhile, says that Wales could “potentially” look at its current 25-cap rule for players plying their trade outside of the country.

Those moving out of Wales must have won a minimum of 25 caps to remain eligible for Gatland’s squad.

It was cut from 60 caps last year as part of a new Professional Rugby Agreement signed by Wales’ four professional regions and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Asked if Welsh rugby should look at the rule, Gatland said: “Yeah, potentially.

“The problem with the 25-cap law at the moment is that there is only one team who gets penalised.

“If players who haven’t got 25 caps leave Wales we haven’t got an opportunity to select them, so it is always an ongoing discussion.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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