Wales consider tweaking "Gatland's Law" on overseas-based players

George North, left, and Rhys Webb will both be playing outside of Wales next season. David Rogers/Getty Images

The Welsh Rugby Union is reportedly weighing up making changes to its policy concerning players based outside of the four regions.

At present the Senior Player Selection Policy [SPSP] -- unofficially named "Gatland's Law", a title Wales coach Warren Gatland is less than enamoured with -- allows for only four overseas-based players trapped by the rule to be picked. That number will reduce to two from the 2019-20 season.

The policy was created to keep Wales' Test players within the regional system, but it also comes with a number of caveats and a touch of confusion.

The SPSP was signed off in 2014 when the WRU and the regions settled long-term differences and dual contracts were introduced. They saw Wales' top players offered a combined deal between the union and region, allowing for a larger, more competitive offer in the face of approaches from the Aviva Premiership or Top 14.

A number of players are on those deals but with Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar leaving the regional scene at the end of the season to take up offers at Toulon and Northampton respectively, it means a large portion of Wales' first-choice squad will be overseas. Gatland, under the policy, can only pick four players who play overseas having turned down offers to stay in Wales.

But there is further confusion. The policy does not apply to those players who signed contracts with clubs outside of the regional system prior to the new agreement being introduced. It also does not apply to those not offered a contract by the WRU or regions, or someone who has been offered a deal deemed to be less than their overall market value. In short, it is a touch convoluted.

Last season there were seven players captured by the policy, with Gatland then only allowed to pick three of that group. Others like Luke Charteris and Tomas Francis were not captured but seven were -- Dominic Day, Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Priestland, Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhodri Williams and Nicky Thomas.

From this season and next, Gatland is allowed four picks but with potentially seven key players abroad for the 2018-19 season and with the 2019 Rugby World Cup looming ever closer, the suggestion is that it is under review.

Faced with a similar conundrum ahead of the 2015 tournament, Australia relaxed its own rules on picking overseas players, allowing those who had won at least 60 Test caps and held a professional contract with the ARU for seven years to remain eligible.

That tweak in policy has ensured that Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Kurtley Beale were able to represent the Wallabies while playing in Europe.

Gatland has said previously he will leave Wales after the next World Cup, but his successor could have a much harder task when selecting a squad once the number of wildcard picks has been reduced to two.

This has all contributed to the WRU reportedly weighing up changing the current agreement.