The Welsh Rugby Union have backed head coach Warren Gatland's request for his players to be released an extra week ahead of the autumn internationals - and urged the regions to help find a solution.
Gatland stated at the weekend that he was “disappointed” his request to hold a 13-day training camp before the South Africa Test on November 8 had been turned down.
At present, the Wales players are due to be in EDF Energy Cup action a weekend before the Test and then link up with the national squad on the Sunday night.
The four Welsh regions - Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons - issued a joint statement claiming Gatland had “misrepresented” their stance and demanding the WRU formalise the issue of player release.
But WRU chief executive Roger Lewis yesterday insisted Gatland’s extended training camp would be in the best interests of Welsh rugby.
England manager Martin Johnson will have his players for a two-week training camp before the autumn series and Gatland wants the same preparation before Wales face world champions South Africa followed by Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Lewis said: “The Welsh Rugby Union fully supports the Wales head coach Warren Gatland in his aim to achieve maximum preparation time for the squad before the forthcoming matches in November.
“Warren has made it very clear that as far as the national squad is concerned he is looking for a level playing field to ensure their preparations are on a par with what is being achieved in the other home nations.
“We totally understand the need for all the parties involved to work in partnership and I know Warren has raised the release issue in good time.
“I am extremely proud of what the regions achieve and how they are developing through challenging times but I urge them to pursue this issue with the clarity and efficiency I know they can deliver.
“Player release is always unavoidably disruptive given the demands of the modern professional game, but we must work together on this in the interests of a successful Wales team.
“There is a clear issue over disruption of cup team selection for the regions but in this particular case we are talking about Wales preparing for an incredibly strong and important line-up of games.”
The regions insisted they had “not dismissed Warren’s request to seek additional release for players involved in international duties” and were “disappointed” he had claimed otherwise.
The joint statement added the regions had sought reassurance the matter would be dealt with “with due regard for the consequences such a move would have on Wales’ current domestic season”.
The regions also requested any solution be legally binding “to avoid a repeat of past instances where the union has reached agreements with the regions, only to see them later ignored by the WRU’s non-rugby management.”