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English-based Wales stars FACINGWORLD Cup worry g.

Byline: Gareth Griffiths Rugby correspondent gareth.griffiths@walesonline.co.uk

ENGLISH.BASED Wales stars could have their World Cup dreams dashed by Aviva Premiership clubs' refusal to A release them for training camps in July and the opening warm-up match against Ireland in Cardiff.

World Rugby's laws state clubs are not obliged to release players until 35 days before the tournament starts on September 18.

And Premier Rugby Limited (PRL), the body which represents the English top-flight clubs, have indicated they will implement this policy.

Player release rules are set out in World Rugby's regulation nine, which states countries can only expect to see their players five weeks ahead of the start of the tournament, which would be August 14.

This would mean Gloucester's Richard Hibbard, Bath-bound Rhys Priestland, Wasps second-row Bradley Davies, Exeter uncapped prop Tomas Francis and Saracens loosehead Rhys Gill missing World Cup training camps in Qatar and Switzerland and the opening warm-up match against Ireland.

These players are not currently World Cup shoo-ins and could find themselves overtaken in the pecking order.

Gatland is set to name a 45-man training camp next month, with warmup matches against Ireland on August A 8 and 29 and Italy in Cardiff on September 5, with the final 31-man squad having to be in by September 7. Lions wing George North would be unaffected because he has full release with Northampton, while Paul James is leaving Bath at end of the season to return to the Ospreys and wouldn't be affected.

England have a deal with the Aviva a Premiership clubs which ensures release for their World Cup build-up from June and it remains to be seen whether they will enter into negotiations with Wales.

The WRU has an agreement with Wales' four regions via umbrella body Pro Rugby Wales that ensures players' extended release.

Leading French clubs could also take the same approach as England, with Racing Metro duo Luke Charteris and Mike Phillips, Clermont centre Jonathan Davies and Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny, but that would seem unlikely.

This is not a new problem for Wales, with Gatland criticising the same decision taken by English clubs in October 2010 ahead of the New Zealand tournament the following year. The main player affected was Andy Powell, who came to a unique arrangement with Wasps which saw the No.8 effectively become a free agent between the end of May, when his one-year deal expired, and signing a new two-year contract starting in August.

During that period, Powell's salary and insurance was covered by the WRU and so he was free to play a full part in Wales' pre-Rugby World Cup training schedule.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Apr 16, 2015
Words:442
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