International rugby has some confusing rules sometimes, one of the rules that often confuses people is the 60 cap rule that Wales Rugby have. So let’s take a look at the rule in detail.
What Is the 60-cap rule in Wales? The 60 cap rule states that unless a Welsh Rugby player has at least 60 caps for their country, they can not be selected for the national team if they play their domestic rugby outside of Wales. If they were already playing outside of Wales before receiving their first full Cap, then they are exempt from the 60 cap rule. The rule has been in force since 2017.
The rule is that if a player is not playing for one of the four Welsh regions and they have fewer than 60 caps, they cannot be selected for the national team. So any player playing abroad cannot be selected for the Welsh rugby team unless they are a season international with over 60 caps.
Introduced in 2017 by former Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips, the idea behind the rule was that Welsh rugby was looking to keep as many of their players with the domestic sides. Welsh rugby did not want to see their best players moving abroad to get bigger offers in Japan, England and France. So to make the domestic teams as good as possible, they have incentivised staying with the Welsh regions.
There are still some exceptions to this rule. Any player who signs a deal with a domestic team outside of Wales prior to getting a cap is exempt from the rule. That is why guys like Louis Rees-Zammitt, Tommy Reffell and Nick Tompkins can all be selected for the national team. All of them signed their deals prior to getting an international call-up.
This rule of course does not affect some of the more experienced players in the Wales squad. The rule does not affect Dan Biggar who plays for Toulon in France because he has more than 60 caps for Wales already. Previously it did not affect Taulupe Faletau when he was at Bath, or Liam Williams when he played for Saracens.
Does Welsh Rugby have a salary cap?
Welsh Rugby has gone through a lot of issues relating to finances over the past 12 months. This has meant they are going to introduce a salary cap for the first time.
Welsh Rugby will have a salary cap, as one will be introduced from the 2023-24 season onwards. At the time of writing Welsh rugby does not have a salary cap, however, this will come into play at the start of the 2023-24 season. Each of the four Welsh regions will need to keep their team salaries below a stated level from next season onwards.
For the 2023-24 season, the salary cap will be £5.2 million for each team. This is going to be reduced to £4.5 million for the 2024-25 season onwards. The WRU has not stated whether this will change depending on revenue in the future. But for the next season, there will be a salary cap for Welsh rugby.
Why does Welsh Rugby have a salary cap?
Welsh Rugby is introducing a salary cap for the start of the 2023-24 season onwards. The main reason to do this is to cut costs. The four Welsh regions are struggling to pay their players at the moment, so a salary cap is the perfect way for these regions to bring down the costs.
This will help Welsh Rugby keep four distinct regions which play professional rugby in the URC. This can be looked at as a short-term fix, with the WRU not ruling out increasing the salary cap in the future. Welsh Rugby will be aware that bringing in a salary cap also has negatives involved.
The main one is that some of the Welsh regions will need to lose some of their best players. With the introduction of the salary cap, we are much more likely to see Welsh players going overseas. This is something that we have already started to see happen. With the salary cap coming in just after the Rugby World Cup, some Welsh players have announced they are already leaving for overseas deals.
Former and Current internationals Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Joe Hawkins and Leigh Halfpenny will be playing their rugby outside of Wales next season. This is just one of the negatives of having a salary cap. This will also lead to the Welsh regions becoming less competitive in the future.
All four Welsh regions will have much smaller budgets than teams like Leinster, Ulster, Stormers and the Bulls in the URC. This will make it much more difficult for Welsh regions to win the URC. But there is another benefit for the Welsh sides when the salary cap is introduced.
There will be more opportunities for academy players breaking into the first team. Academy players are much cheaper than internationals or any players who the region might have tried to sign. Therefore, this could help to produce some better Welsh talent. However the main reason why Welsh Rugby is introducing a salary cap is to cut costs.
Louis Rees-Zammit 60-cap rule
Some rugby fans might be confused to see Louis Rees-Zammitt playing rugby for Wales, especially those who are aware of the 60-cap rule. The 60-cap rule usually prevents players who have fewer than 60 caps playing for Wales if they do not play their domestic rugby in Wales. However, Louis Reez-Zammitt is a regular for the international side, despite playing his domestic rugby for Gloucester.
That is because Rees-Zammitt is excluded from the rule having signed a contract with Gloucester before he made his Welsh debut. Having started his youth career with Cardiff Blues, Rees-Zammitt moved to Hartpury College and joined the academy of Gloucester Rugby.
He would make his first team debut in 2018 for Gloucester, being called up to the Welsh squad two years later. Due to Rees-Zammitt signing his contract with Gloucester before making his international debut, he is exempt from the rule, despite having fewer than 60 caps.
This is the same rule exception that allows Tommy Reffell, Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza all play for Wales, despite playing their domestic rugby for an English side.