Today's rugby news as WRU in cheeky dig at England and Six Nations TV call made

Fresh calls have been made for the Six Nations to remain free to air
Fresh calls have been made for the Six Nations to remain free to air -Credit:Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Wednesday, April 24.

Six Nations TV call made

The Senedd’s Sport Committee has called for the Six Nations Championship to be protected so that it can remain on free to air TV.

The committee has now announced the publication of its report, arguing the UK's secretary of state for culture, media and sport should move the tournament from being a Group B event to Group A as part of the listed events regime under the Broadcasting Act 1996.

This would mean the Six Nations would join the FA Cup Final, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Women's Football World Cup and European Championships as protected free-to-air tournaments. The committee is also recommending that the Welsh Government support this call.

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It comes despite WRU boss Abi Tierney telling the committee it was imperative the option of moving behind a paywall remained on the table to maximise the TV market for rugby Unions desperate for money.

The current deal with the BBC and ITV runs out next year, with the TV future of the tournament up in the air.

Delyth Jewell MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee said: “Rugby in Wales plays a unique role in our national life, and in particular the Six Nations, holds a special place for Welsh audiences. This was never far from our minds when we made the decision to call for it to be protected as a free-to-air tournament.

“We’ve heard loudly and clearly about the challenges the sport faces in terms of reduced playing numbers in Wales. Concerns have equally been raised with us about the effects of placing the tournament behind a paywall and the impact that could have on playing numbers – we were told that ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’

“Many recognise the damaging effects that have been seen by putting cricket in the UK behind a paywall in 2006. Between 2006 and 2015, there was a 32% reduction in playing numbers. The same cannot be allowed to happen to rugby.

“Growing up, young people in Wales are inspired to take part in sport by watching rugby and it’s essential that the Six Nations tournament stays as accessible as possible.”

The committee also believes that Welsh language broadcasting of the Six Nations must be protected. The report calls for the UK Government to take steps to protect full Welsh language coverage of the Six Nations tournament.

WRU's cheeky dig at England

The Welsh Rugby Union took a cheeky swipe at England on St George's Day, with a social media post that went down well with Wales fans.

The Union simply wished England Rugby a 'Happy St George's Day', posting a series of pictures depicting some famous modern Welsh triumphs over their most bitter rivals.

The snaps included Alex Cuthbert scoring in the 2013 '30-3' game in Cardiff, as well as Dan Biggar kicking Wales to glory at the 2015 World Cup to give English rugby one of its darkest Twickenham days.

One fan commented: "This is the best thing the WRU have done in 16 years!"

Peel hopes to keep 'great' signing

Dwayne Peel has praised the impact Scotland lock Alex Craig has had on the Scarlets and hopes he will remain at the club.

Craig moved to the Scarlets from Gloucester at the end of last season having been plagued by injuries over the past couple of years. But the powerful second-row has impressed during his time in west Wales with his physical presence, huge work rate and his ability to get over the gainline.

"He's been a great acquisition for us," said Peel. "He's a no nonsense lock and it's something that we wanted. He's high numbers and everything.

"I think that he works extremely hard, hits a lot of rucks and makes his tackles. Of late I've been impressed with his carrying game. That's something that's grown in his game. We've spoken to him a lot around his ability to keep gain-line and be in momentum when he carries and he's done that.

"The last couple of games he's been excellent in that area."

England stars' contract frustration

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

Maro Itoje and Jamie George have yet to be offered finalised hybrid contracts by England amid an appeal from Saracens boss Mark McCall to speed up the process.

Itoje and current England captain George have agreed new deals with the Gallagher Premiership champions on the understanding their salaries would be topped up by the Rugby Football Union.

However, the RFU's plan to issue 25 hybrid contracts worth £150,000 per season each as part of the new Professional Game Agreement appears to have stalled.

McCall revealed that Itoje and George - the only two players offered the deals so far - are still waiting to put pen to paper with a continued delay having possible repercussions on recruitment for next season.

"It's fair to say that an agreement has been reached between them, the club and the RFU in principle," director of rugby McCall said.

"But as far as I know no contract has actually been signed by either of those two players.

"The sooner all that can get done, the better for everybody. It's pretty important that it gets sorted as quickly as possible."

The RFU insists that the hybrid contracts are on course to be rolled out later this year.

"The new Professional Game Partnership comes into effect next season and it is likely that enhanced elite player squad contracts will be announced in the autumn," an RFU spokesperson said.