THE Welsh Rugby Union has welcomed the news that Wales centre Scott Williams has committed his future to the Scarlets, writes Andrew Penman.
Williams has already won 24 caps for Wales and will start for his country against Ireland on Saturday in the RBS 6 Nations encounter.
WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis said: “We are delighted Scott Williams has decided to commit his future to the region and Wales.
“The priority for us all is to keep as many key players in Wales as possible as we all understand the pressure many of them have to move abroad.
“Scott is a fantastic player and a great ambassador for our game off the field of play. He is a proud Scarlet who is a real favourite with the supporters.”
The WRU statement on Williams continues: “The WRU and the regions are currently negotiating a new Rugby Services Agreement which will include terms for player welfare and release for international duty.
“The WRU has declared the governing body is prepared to negotiate national contracts with key players the regions have been unable to negotiate renewed contracts with so they can remain in Wales with their region.”
Wales captain Sam Warburton is so far the only Welsh player to sign a central contract with the WRU with Leaigh Halfpenny recently joining the likes of Dan Lydiate, Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts in agreeing a lucrative deal to play in France.
Ospreys backer Robert Davies has rebuffed Lewis' assertion that the four Welsh regions are open to the idea of more players signing national contracts.
“It’s very difficult for us to have any sensible discussion with the union... there's no trust left,” said Davies.
“There's no relationship with the regions and the regions have been consistent in their view – there is no system to support central contracts in Wales."
However, the WRU claimed “meaningful discussions” are continuing with the regions, and those include contracts.
“Exchanges of information and discussions continue and the WRU is grateful to the regions,” said the WRU.
Speaking about his new contract Williams said: “I’m really pleased to have committed my future to rugby in Wales.
"It's really good to have this all secured now, so I can concentrate solely on my rugby and the campaign ahead of us, both with Wales in the Six Nations and then back to RaboDirect PRO12 league action with the Scarlets.”
Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby added: “Scott is an exceptional talent. We are all delighted that he's staying at the Scarlets and committing his future to our region.
“Given all the debate about retaining our best players in Wales, it's a real positive for Welsh rugby as a whole that one of our top internationals has chosen to stay here to play his rugby.”
Meanwhile, the WRU has offered to consider a loan facility for the regions to temporarily cover their postponed ERC funding payment.
All the regions have indicated publicly that the payment delay is causing them serious financial consequences.
The latest statement from the WRU says: "The WRU is prepared to cover the full amount of postponed payments on a temporary basis subject to the loan getting formal WRU Board and bank approval.
"The loan offer was made to the regions before the ERC Board meeting on Wednesday 5 February when the postponement of payment distributions was confirmed.
"If the WRU receives a request from the regions the governing body would consider it positively as a matter of urgency.
"The ERC Board has unanimously agreed to postpone all further payment decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until February 19 when the Board will meet again."