England-based players could miss Wales's Wallaby clash


London (AFP)

Wales could be without their England-based players for next month's opening end of year Test against Australia in Cardiff next month because of an eligibility row.

The November 5 fixture takes place outside of World Rugby's official window for Tests, meaning clubs are not obliged to release players for the fixture.

English Premiership clubs have an agreement with England's Rugby Football Union that allows England to select players for matches outside the window, but it has no such deal with the Welsh Rugby Union.

As a result, the likes of the Bath duo of Taulupe Faletau (currently injured) and Luke Charteris could miss the Australia fixture.

But after announcing his squad on Tuesday, Wales interim head coach Rob Howley said Northampton wing George North and Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts had told him they would be available to face the Wallabies.

It may be that the two players have specific release clauses in their club contracts, but Premiership Rugby -- the umbrella body for England's 12 top-flight clubs -- have shown no sign of relaxing their general policy.

And the last time Northampton released North for a Test outside the international window, in 2013, they ended up with a £60,000 fine for breaching Premiership rules.

"We've had no formal conversations with any of the English clubs, but having spoken to the players, they are available to play," Howley said.

"Some of them are available for the Australia game, and we will have to make sure we pick from the availability.

"The players who I have spoken to are the likes of Jamie, George and Toby (Taulupe Faletau). Toby is injured, but Jamie and George, as far as we are concerned having spoken to them, are available for the Australia game.

"There has been no formal communication between ourselves and PRL (Premiership Rugby Limited)."

Wales have lost their last 11 games against Australia, although six of those defeats were by five points or fewer.

Next month's match is the first of a testing autumn programme that also sees Wales up against Argentina, Japan and South Africa in Cardiff, with Howley in charge now that Wales boss Warren Gatland is concentrating fully on the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand next year.