sport

Gatland under no illusions

Warren Gatland admits Wales are battling "market forces" regarding movement of top players to France.

Several of Wales coach Gatland's squad - players like Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips, Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris and James Hook - currently ply their trade in France, while centre Jonathan Davies will join Clermont Auvergne next season and full-back Leigh Halfpenny looks poised for Toulon.

A lucrative new television deal, meanwhile, recently signed between France's Ligue Nationale de Rugby and Canal+, looks set to considerably enhance French clubs' spending power.

"Ideally, we would like players playing in Wales, but I am under no illusions, given the success of the Wales team and some players with the Lions. We've got a group of world-class players," Gatland said.

"I had a conversation with a player this week.

"He has been made a really attractive offer that is comparable to any offer an English side would make him, but when he is being offered double the money to go to France, it is hard for a player to turn away from those sort of opportunities, given his limited time in the game.

"Our wish is that they stay in Wales. Going forward, our preference is to try to keep them in Wales, but it's market forces that are determining this.

"If you look at the new TV deal that has been done in the Top 14, rather than alleviate it, it might get worse.

"There is no doubt that the financial benefit of going to France is significant, but then the trade-off is not much of an off-season, being flogged in terms of the number of games, and the players would say that probably the medical/strength and conditioning is not quite as good."

Wales captain Sam Warburton has yet to thrash out his future beyond this season, with staying at Cardiff Blues, signing a Welsh Rugby Union central contract or moving abroad all believed to be options.

Warburton, though, insists all his thoughts are on this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship as Wales target an unprecedented title hat-trick.

"Ideally, you would want it tied up either before or after (the Six Nations)," Warburton said, of his future.

"If it is after, then it will go on the back-burner for a couple of months.

"The most important thing over the next few weeks will be trying to achieve a third title successively for Wales. That is the priority for myself and all the other members of the squad as well."