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Stuart Gallacher, Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales said:  “It’s a sad day for Welsh Rugby as yet another of our world-class players will leave Wales to play overseas.

“You can’t blame Leigh for making this decision and taking his opportunity given that there is still so much uncertainty surrounding the competitions we’ll be playing in and revenues the Welsh Regions will receive next season. He is one of world rugby’s leading stars and an outstanding British Lion, and we all wish him the very best in France.

“The Regions are battling hard to keep their top players and I know that the Cardiff Blues have done everything they possibly can to keep Leigh, but unfortunately the competition from big spending clubs outside Wales is just too strong.

“The commercial platform of French and English Rugby will leave Wales completely behind within five years; that’s the real threat and it should be a sharp focus for us all. The overall revenues in the French league from TV, sponsorship and ticket sales will potentially be greater than the revenues of the WRU, IRFU and SRU put together.

“There are now eight Welsh players who playing in the French Top 14 next season, and fourteen of our players outside Wales. This just shows the climate we’re in and how much work needs to be done collectively to retain our talent.

“The continued lack of certainty on competitions and revenues for the Regions next season coupled with the more recent debate around central contracts for a handful of international players has only added to the confusion for players at this time.

“There are fundamental issues that need urgently addressing across the whole of Welsh Rugby. We need a collaborative and practical approach between WRU, Regions and community clubs on to how best to retain and invest in our players in Wales.

“It’s clear that the Regions need strong and meaningful competitions with associated revenues to bring more funding into Welsh rugby.

“It highlights the need for fair and equitable distribution going forward to ensure the Regions have the resources to retain and grow the pool of Welsh professional players to service the professional game and the Welsh National team.”

“So many people rely on our Regions being healthy, successful and progressing strongly and they play a key role in our rugby communities.  The impact on our supporters and young players of iconic Welsh rugby stars leaving their Regions should not be underestimated, as they lose the chance to watch their heroes and be inspired week-in-week out.”