sport

Howley remaining patient

Rob Howley accepts that a solution to Welsh international rugby's overseas player departures will not be found overnight.

But Howley, Wales' interim head coach, is confident ongoing talks between the Welsh Rugby Union and four professional regions - Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Ospreys and Newport Gwent Dragons - can reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Howley will take his autumn Test squad to Poland next weekend for an intensive training camp ahead of appointments with Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

France-based quartet James Hook, Luke Charteris, Mike Phillips and Gethin Jenkins, though, are not available due to club commitments in the Top 14 with Perpignan, Bayonne and Toulon, respectively.

It is also highly unlikely they will make Wales' final autumn Test against Australia on December 1, as that game falls outside the International Rugby Board fixture window and clubs are not obliged to release their players.

Two other Wales stars - centre Jamie Roberts and flanker Dan Lydiate - are the latest names to be linked with French moves when their existing regional contracts expire at the end of this season.

And Howley revealed today that he recently travelled to France alongside Wales boss Warren Gatland for discussions with the relevant clubs.

"Warren and myself went over to France and had five or six days with the various coaching teams in Bayonne, Toulon and Perpignan,'' Howley said.

"There are ongoing discussions with those players based in France. At this moment in time, those players are unlikely to be involved in the Australia game.

"But it is important we look at every individual case and why that player is going to France.

"If they are being head-hunted, then surely between the agent, the player and the club president there can be some sort of arrangement or discussion that the player becomes available for some preparation time or a game outside the IRB Test window.

"It was important for us to go to France. If you don't try, I think you are always going to have a negative answer. We wanted to open discussions and try to create a relationship.

"Ideally, we want everyone to stay in Wales, but we understand in terms of supply and demand that is not going to happen - from a players' perspective and from a region's perspective - and we just have to get on with it and manage our players the best we can.

"We need to find a Welsh solution. At this moment in time there is a lot of good talk going on between the regions and the Welsh Rugby Union, and I am sure at some stage a solution will be found.

"It is important the right solution is found. It's not going to happen overnight. It's softly, softly, and communications are in place, and I am sure a solution will be in place shortly.

"It is going to take time. Someone like Jamie Roberts is in a different situation to Craig Mitchell, who is in a different situation to Mike Phillips or James Hook. That is why time is being taken.''

Addressing the speculation surrounding Roberts, Howley added: "What tends to happen in Wales is that players are talked about as a collective, but every player will make his own decision.

"I have been in discussions with Jamie over the last two or three weeks, and I know he has spoken with Roger Lewis (WRU group chief executive) and Cardiff Blues.

"I think Jamie's position is a little bit different compared to every other player who might decide to go over to France. I don't think it is a financial decision Jamie has to make.

"He is going to be a doctor, and Jamie might buck the trend in deciding to go for reasons other than finance. That is Jamie's decision. ''

Wales, meanwhile, go into the autumn campaign looking to bounce back from a 3-0 summer Test series defeat in Australia, although it could easily have been a different story.

Wales lost the last two Tests by a combined total of just three points, and memories remain fresh in the Welsh camp.

"The summer tour was about fine margins and big consequences. We could have won that series 2-1. It didn't happen, and you use that as motivation. You remember it,'' Howley added.

"It's about holding our nerve that when we get in the lead we keep our emotions intact and we are able to be accurate under pressure to carry the result.''

One player, though, not involved with Wales at this stage is Gavin Henson, who recently began his latest comeback from injury with Aviva Premiership newcomers London Welsh.

"Gavin needs to play,'' Howley said.

"He is thoroughly enjoying his time in London, and we need to leave him to play week in, week out, and let's see where he is next season.''