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WRU Confirm Rhys Webb Departure And Hint At International Exile

Last night there were reports that Rhys Webb would be leaving the Ospreys at the end of the season to play in the Top 14, the club reportedly being Toulon. 

Any hope from Welsh and Ospreys supporters that the reports would be false have been dashed as the Ospreys and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) released a joint statement this morning confirming the news.

Webb is currently on a national dual contract with the Ospreys and the WRU but that will end once this season has finished. The statement reads:

The Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys can confirm that Rhys Webb has informed them of his intention to leave Welsh Rugby next season.
 
Webb, who is on a National Dual Contract, will join an undisclosed French club for the 2018/19 season.
 
In line with our intention to keep our best players in Wales, every effort to retain the player has been made.  Whilst the news is disappointing there is an understanding that on occasion market forces will make this impractical.
 
All parties would like to thank Rhys for his contribution to the game here in Wales and continue to wish him well for the future.

What’s interesting about the statement is some of the language used. “His intention to leave Welsh Rugby” and “…for his contribution to the game here in Wales…” indicates that his immediate future playing for the Welsh national team may be coming to an end.

The statement doesn’t disclose the Top 14 club which Webb is set to sign for but according to other reports, that club is Toulon. Webb himself released a statement confirming the news and he gives his thanks to the club and the WRU.

“It’s a huge wrench to be leaving the Ospreys after spending all of my playing career with the team. I have made lifelong friends on and off the pitch and I cannot speak highly enough of the quality of the coaching team, players and all of the staff involved within the Ospreys organisation.

“I will continue to give the region everything I can to make sure we have the best season possible and I would like to conclude by saying a heartfelt thanks to everyone within the Region for helping me achieve my goals within rugby

“I would like to thank the WRU and the Ospreys for their efforts during this process.”

This is another blow to Welsh rugby and the Ospreys who have already been hit with the news that Dan Biggar will be leaving for the Northampton Saints at the end of the 2017/2018 season.

‘Gatland’s Law’ which permits just four players playing outside of Wales to represent the national team means that there could be some high-profile omissions from future Welsh squads due to the high number of players who will be playing outside of Wales from next year.

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email seanmc@punditarena.com or on Twitter