11:22am Wednesday 2nd October 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
FORMER Wales star Scott Quinnell is urging the Welsh Rugby Union to come up with the money to ensure the country’s best talent stays at home.
He has voiced his concerns as the exodus of top players to France and England’s premier clubs could be set to continue.
The Lions’ star full back Leigh Halfpenny in their 2-1 series win over Australia this summer is being linked with Heineken Cup champions Toulon.
And Wales captain and openside flanker Sam Warburton’s future at the Blues is said to be in limbo by the ongoing European row over the future of the Heineken Cup.
Dan Lydiate, Jamie Roberts and George North were the latest high calibre players to leave Wales at the end of last season.
Lydiate and Roberts left the Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues respectively to join ambitious Parisian club Racing Métro, while North swapped the Scarlets for Northampton.
2012 Grand Slam winners James Hook and Luke Charteris have been with Perpignan for a couple of seasons while Wales’ first choice scrum half Mike Phillips is at Bayonne.
Former Scarlets, Wales and Lions number eight Quinnell has called on the WRU to stem the player drain.
“It's very concerning. We want the best players playing in Wales. Hopefully we can do that and can come up with a formula,” he said.
“Central contracts worked in Ireland so well where the players stay and play for their provinces. It's up to the WRU to throw some money at the regions and the clubs.
"They need to have the best players playing. We can't have the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies, Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton leaving – not just for the provinces but for the youngsters. They want to see these guys in the flesh."
And Quinnell, who won 52 caps for Wales between 1993 and 2002, is tipping the Ospreys to do well in the Heineken Cup but recognises they have it all to do after being drawn in the same group as RaboDirect PRO12 and Amlin Challenge Cup champions Leinster, Top 14 winners Castres and Aviva Premiership runners-up Northampton.
"The Ospreys are the strongest of the Welsh sides in the RaboDirect PRO12,” he said.
“They have a big Lions contingent in their pack with Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and Justin Tipuric.
"They've got a good side coming into this and form. It's just about keeping their players fit because that tour Down Under took a huge amount out of those guys and with the format being six rounds culminating in January, hopefully they have a good chance if they keep fit. They're in a very difficult pool."
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