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Faletau says off-field issues have distracted Wales in Six Nations bid

Taulupe Faletau (right) has blamed contract dispute for Wales issues. Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP

Wales star Taulupe Faletau said on Tuesday it was “hard to give your all” against the backdrop of the contractual dispute that has engulfed Welsh rugby in recent weeks.

All four Welsh professional regions — Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets — face major funding cuts, leading to vastly reduced contract offers for many players whose deals expire at the end of this season, and an exodus appears inevitable.

The off-field issues led to the threat of a players’ strike before the Six Nations clash against England last month.

Although industrial action was averted and the game went ahead as scheduled, Wales suffered a third successive Six Nations defeat.

And they now head to Rome for an appointment with Italy on Saturday, when another loss could lead to a first wooden spoon since 2003.

“The situation we are all in at the moment is not great for anyone involved,” said Cardiff No. 8 Faletau, who is set to win his 99th cap against the Azzurri.

“It’s not just Cardiff, it is all across the regions. It’s just a tough time we are stuck in at the moment.

“You are always going to try to put your best foot forward but when things aren’t going well off the pitch it’s hard to give your all then.”

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins expressed sympathy with players caught up in the financial crisis.

“People have got homes, families, mortgages, bills. It has not been a good time, and it is a tough time for the guys,” he said.

“There are jobs on the line and livelihoods on the line, that is the reality of it. Hopefully things are moving forward and getting resolved.”

Italy famously claimed a last-gasp win in Cardiff 12 months ago.

They continue to show significant improvement under Kieran Crowley, producing some outstanding rugby, albeit in defeat, against France, England and Ireland.

“They have got an awful lot of talent in the team and they are not afraid to play from anywhere,” said Jenkins.

“They have got good structures and make good decisions. It will be a very, very tough test for us on Saturday.”

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