No Cardiff guarantee for Warburton

Sam Warburton hopes to play for Cardiff Blues next season

Sam Warburton hopes to play for Cardiff Blues next season

First published in National Sport News © by

Sam Warburton signed a ground-breaking contract with the Welsh Rugby Union as it was the only way he could stay in Wales - but the uncertainty in the regions means there are no "cast iron guarantees" he will play for Cardiff Blues next season, according to his agent.

The Wales captain, 25, became the first player to sign a deal with the WRU on Saturday, with the three-year deal confirmation that he would not be joining the exodus to France.

Warburton currently plays his club rugby for Cardiff Blues in the RaboDirect PRO12 league but is believed to have attracted interest from Top 14 sides Toulon and Stade Francais where he could have commanded double his salary in Wales.

However, the flanker's agent Derwyn Jones revealed Warburton wanted to stay in Wales and ideally carry on playing for the Blues despite the current uncertainty between the Welsh regions and the WRU.

The issue of how to keep the best Welsh talent in Wales is part of the current dispute between the unions and the regions over the future of the domestic game, while the impasse over the future of the Heineken Cup has led the regions to ponder splitting from the union and joining an expanded Aviva Premiership.

"Cardiff Blues and the WRU could not table a joint offer for Sam because of the current political fallout between the Welsh Regions and the WRU," Jones told walesonline.co.uk.

"Cardiff Blues alone could not give Sam a market value contract offer due to the uncertain future of the game in Wales, they also could not offer this to Leigh Halfpenny who has since signed for Toulon.

"Sam was faced with the following two options regarding his playing future: 1. Pursue interest from two teams in the French Top 14 at twice his UK market value; 2. Sign a three year employment contract with the WRU to stay in Wales at his UK market value.

"Sam has decided to accept the very generous and fair offer from the WRU because he is currently Wales captain. Like all of his fellow Welsh internationals he is honoured every time he pulls on the red jersey of Wales and he loves his country.

"He also loves Cardiff, he lives in Cardiff and he hopes to continue to play for Cardiff Blues - the WRU and Sam have prioritised this during the negotiation process.

"At this time however, due to the current fallout between the regions and the WRU, there are no cast iron guarantees that Sam will be able play for Cardiff next season.

"Sam wants to stay in Wales and intends to play for Cardiff Blues next season should all the issues be resolved, but if he had moved to France there would have been absolutely no chance of him playing for the team he has supported since he was a young boy."

The WRU previously wanted to offer winger George North, now at Northampton, a deal to remain in Wales, only to discover the regions had an agreement not to field a centrally-contracted player.

The Cardiff Blues have yet to respond to the news of Warburton's deal; on Friday chief executive Richard Holland said they had made the back-rower the best offer they could.

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