SAM Warburton has saluted wing Alex Cuthbert’s decision to turn down the tempting cheques of wealthy French clubs to sign a new deal with Cardiff Blues as a major boost for Welsh rugby.
The fear was that 13-times capped Cuthbert would join Newport Gwent Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate in joining the exodus to the Top 14 when his contract expired in the summer.
However, the 22-year-old speedster – the top scorer in this season’s Heineken Cup - is set to sign a new three-year deal that will keep him in the capital until the summer of 2016.
Blues director of rugby Phil Davies yesterday said he is hopeful Cuthbert putting pen to paper “sooner rather than later”, much to the delight of Wales captain Warburton.
“It will be great for the region and for Wales to keep hold of Alex – he’s a top-class player and up there with the best in the world when he is playing well,” said the flanker.
“To keep a player of his calibre is a great boost for all of the players round here and shows that the club has ambition.
“Cuthbert has been immense for the Blues this season and is a key player for us. He gives us go-forward, is a hell of an athlete, a good pro and trains hard.
“He is always willing to learn and deserves all of the success that he has had over the past season or so.”
This time next year it will be Warburton’s turn to be the subject of the speculation.
His contract expires in the summer of 2014 but the 24-year-old has made no secret of his desire to stay put rather than be flogged in France’s attritional Top 14.
“I’ve still got 18 months or so to go on my deal and I will cross that bridge when I come to it,” said the openside.
“Ideally players want to stay in Wales and I am a bit of a home bird anyway – it would be nice to have my testimonial in Cardiff.
“Being brutally honest, if there wasn’t money in France nobody would go there. I’d rather play somewhere I’m happy and where I am being looked after medically.
“Phil Davies has been great for me this season and appreciates that players need a rest so that they can keep performing well.”