CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Sam Warburton has become the first Wales international to sign a central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union.
As part of the landmark arrangement announced Saturday, the WRU says it will pay Warburton — the current Wales captain — and release him to his club side Cardiff Blues "at no cost to the region." WRU chief executive Roger Lewis says "I am sure this will be remembered as an important moment for rugby in Wales."
Welsh rugby has seen a slew of its top players leave the country's financially stricken regions to play in France and England, who have Europe's richest two leagues. Lewis says "Welsh rugby together cannot stand back any longer and watch its best players leave Wales."