Six Nations: Wales captain Sam Warburton defends central contract
Wales captain Sam Warburton has defended his decision to sign a three-year central contract with the Welsh Rugby Union.
Last Updated: 30/01/14 1:25pm
Warburton will continue to represent Cardiff Blues when not on international duty but will no longer be contracted to the club directly.
That departure from the normal protocol has angered Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), who issued a statement on Wednesday describing themselves as "bemused" by the move.
But Warburton, who will lead out defending champions Wales in their opening Six Nations match against Italy on Saturday, is happy with the move and insisted he remains committed to the Blues.
"I think central contracts can work, and will work," he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.
"I am sure more Wales players will sign up, and it will become clear that it is not the WRU competing against the regions. It is about everyone working together.
"I told the union I only wanted to sign a central contract if I could play for the Cardiff Blues.
"I am Cardiff through and through and would find it uncomfortable playing for anyone else. If I had not been able to play for the Blues, it would have been back to the drawing board."
Warburton was supported by a statement from the WRU, which read: "The clear intention is to ensure the four Regions have the opportunity of gathering the strongest squads possible to compete on domestic and European stages.
"To support this strategy the WRU has encouraged the Scarlets and the Ospreys to conclude negotiations with Scott Williams and Rhys Priestland and Adam Jones respectively.
"The WRU remains willing to step in with National Contract offers for those individuals who were nominated by the Regions, late in 2013 as players they regarded as key members of their squads, whose services should be retained in Wales.
"If the necessary negotiations are completed and the National Contract formula is secured in a new Rugby Services Agreement, the WRU will be prepared for some key contracts held by the Regions to revert to the governing body if the Regions wish and the players agree."
Warburton may have signed up to a central contract but Wales team-mate Alun-Wyn Jones recently turned one down in order to agree fresh terms with the Ospreys, while Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny has opted to sign for reigning European champions Toulon.
Fly-half Priestland has yet to decide on his future and despite being committed to Cardiff Warburton, who considered a move to France over the summer, has not ruled out a move in the future.
"I would just like to see how things pan out," said Priestland. "I find it difficult because I don't know all the facts so it's hard to make a fully informed decision.
"The sooner I can sort it out the better. I have spoken to Leigh, Alun and Sam, and they all feel a weight off their shoulders (after deciding their futures). I think it would be better if I stayed in Wales, but nothing is set in stone yet."