Lions cannot be blamed for French moves

Lions legend Gareth Edwards insists the growing number of British stars plying their trade in the Top 14 cannot be blamed for joining big-spending French clubs. [more]

Lions cannot be blamed for French moves

Lions legend Gareth Edwards insists the growing number of British stars plying their trade in the Top 14 cannot be blamed for joining big-spending French clubs.

Mike Phillips became the latest Welsh star to switch to the French top flight after agreeing a three-year deal at Bayonne yesterday.

The 28-year-old scrum-half follows in the footsteps of former Ospreys teammates and fellow Lions Lee Byrne and James Hook out of the Liberty Stadium to take up lucrative contracts on the continent.

But Edwards, who was part of two victorious Lions tours in New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974, insists the players cannot be blamed for making the most of their short careers.

"France seems to be the place of the moment," Edwards told the BBC.

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"There's a very successful structure in their rugby, a very prominent and very wealthy position that they're enjoying at the moment thanks to television.

"Nobody can blame any of these professional players for moving to whichever part of the world it is."

Phillips was told he could leave the Welsh region following several requests from the Lion for an early release despite having three years left on his contract.

Along with Byrne and Hook, Phillips will move to France following the World Cup in September.

And Edwards reckons the departure of some of Wales' star players could have a knock-on affect on the game

"They've got very short careers and they've got to make the best decision at the time when obviously France in particular has got the attraction financially," said Edwards.

"Of course, in an ideal world, we'd all have our best players playing in our own league, wouldn't we?

"I'm concerned about that because I think young people need heroes and they need to try to emulate their heroes and to see these guys playing regularly on your doorstep is one way to… attract young members to the game.

"So I don't think it does anything for Welsh rugby in the long term to see them going to another country to play."

Phillips is one of seven players in coach Warren Gatland's 45-man preliminary World Cup squad that will be on the move over the summer.

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