Warren Gatland & Alun Wyn Jones Press Conference

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Warren Gatland Insists His Players Remain Focussed Despite Off Field Issues Ahead of Crunch England Fixture

I spoke to Warren Gatland and Alun Wyn Jones at Wales’ press conference ahead of their Six Nations fixture against England. Due to the sensitivity of of the topics discussed, no photos were to be taken of those involved.

Wales’ poor start to the Six Nations seems like a microcosm of the mess that the Welsh Rugby Union has found itself in ahead of a crucial game against England.

It is the first time in the Six Nations that Wales have lost their first two games of the tournament whilst also conceding 20 or more points in both games, after losing 34-10 against Ireland and 35-7 against Scotland.

But the performances come under the backdrop of the messy situation Welsh rugby once again finds itself in. As the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) decide on what their next steps are to end this sorry story.

After the recent BBC investigation into claims of sexism, bullying and sexual misconduct within the WRU.

Welsh rugby finds itself once again embroiled in a situation which leaves players and their families in a desperate situation, as the WRU and the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) continue to drag their feet on reaching an agreement on funding the game in Wales.

And the situation has risen its ugly head during the week that Wales welcome an improving England side to Cardiff in the next round of Six Nations Action.

On the Players’ willingness to play in that fixture despite the elephant in the room of the funding agreement,

Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland said:

“As far as I am concerned. I am just preparing for the game and I’m confident that the game will go ahead.”

“We understand the frustration of the players that things haven’t been sorted out between the union and the regions and PRGB, which is a joint body equally shared by the unions and the regions to hopefully get an agreement.

“I am complete supporter of the players in terms of the WRPA which to me in my time here has been incredibly weak as an organisation. I have stressed on several occasions to the players that they need to be stronger, they need to have more voice.

“From that regard I think it’s a huge positive for the players and that relationship with the union going forward, because they need to be part of all the discussions that take place.

“I am sure the players like us would like things resolved as quickly as possible. These things have been going on for a long time.

“But all I can focus on is concentrating on preparing for the game. That stuff us out of my remit. I am just planning for England next week.”

Picture of some of the players?

For the players it is an increasingly difficult time with the ‘cost of living crisis which is affecting everyone in the country. It is hard to ignore the impact the situation is having on the day-to-day mindset and the performance of the players.

It is therefore important that the players now have a say in what is to come next, as Welsh rugby looks to restore itself in the coming years.

Alun Wyn Jones added:

” I would like to thank on behalf of the players the support that has been shown from the public and ex-players, particularly in the last 24 hours, because things appear to have come to a head.

“It is just disappointing that as players a lot are caught in in the middle again. It’s the perennial conversation about funding, who has what, caught in the middle between the PRB and regions and union.

“It is disappointing that we are 20 years into regional rugby and it’s the same things that have come around again. We’ve had banding systems, project reset, I remember in 2019 we met about potential mergers, and the game has survived all of those things.

“It has come to a point where people are being affected, there is potential to affect families. This current period has come to a head after 18 months.

“This was supposed to be sorted a long time ago.

“We’re fortunate that we’re all involved in a sport and a job we love. To fathom the fact we might need to strike because of the severity of the situation is very real, but it’s the last thing we want to do.

“We’re fully aware of the privilege that we have, whether that be regional or international, but we can’t be under the guillotine and be used in the emotive side of things when ultimately this is a career and a job.