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Wales boss Gatland confident Six Nations game will go ahead despite strike threat

Wales' head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP

Wales coach Warren Gatland is confident that Saturday’s strike-threatened Six Nations clash against England in Cardiff will go ahead despite delaying his team announcement.

Players in Wales are threatening to down tools over a contract dispute and are reportedly ready to strike if their demands are not met by Wednesday.

Gatland had been scheduled to announce his team at 1200 GMT on Tuesday but still went ahead with a planned press conference in the absence of a match-day 23.

Asked if he was confident the game would go ahead, Gatland told reporters: “Absolutely. I’m hearing positive things from both sides.

“I’m confident that with the discussions taking place, that it will get resolved today. There have been half a dozen meetings over the last few days or so.”

The New Zealander said the team announcement was delayed due to the uncertainty of the situation.

“There’s a lot of meetings,” he said. “I just wanted clarity for the boys with tomorrow (Wednesday) then we come back Thursday (for a team announcement).”

Calling off the game could cost the Welsh Rugby Union an estimated £9 million ($11 million).

Last week, the Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA) said the delay was causing “unacceptable strain on mental health and overall wellbeing”.

A new financial agreement between the four Welsh regions – Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets — and the Welsh Rugby Union has still to be confirmed in writing.

That has sparked concern a sizeable number of players whose contracts expire at the end of this season will leave Wales due to uncertainty over their futures.

Talks on a new six-year financial agreement between Wales’ Professional Rugby Board and the players are ongoing.

The players want Wales’ minimum 60-cap selection rule for players at clubs outside the country scrapped, a voice at PRB meetings and a review of proposed fixed-variable contracts.

Those contracts would guarantee a player only 80 percent of their salary, with the remaining 20 percent comprising bonuses.

“My understanding is that the players have requested a number of things to be looked at and there are discussions taking place today,” said Gatland.

“(The 60-cap rule is) one of the things being discussed and discussions are taking place today. Everyone has spoken before about the 60-cap rule and it does give the players a greater opportunity in terms of preparation. 

“There’s an advantage in being based in Wales.”

Wales have lost their opening two games of the Six Nations for the first time in 16 years, with defeat by Ireland followed by a record 35-7 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh.

Gatland said his side would still give a good account of themselves if Saturday’s match at the Principality Stadium went ahead, despite a chaotic build-up.

“In fairness to the players, they’ve trained well amongst it all,” he said.

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