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Gatland eyes Warburton stay

10th December 2013 09:24

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Sam Warburton

Wednesday contract deadline: Sam Warburton

Wales and British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland claims Sam Warburton is a player Welsh rugby can "ill afford" to lose.

Warburton, who captained Gatland's successful Lions tour party in June and July this year, is awaiting a new contract offer from Cardiff Blues.

While the flanker admits he would prefer to stay with the region, he has set the capital outfit a Wednesday deadline to come up with an acceptable deal.

The Kiwi coach hopes the Blues can keep hold of their skipper.

"We can ill afford to lose someone of that sort of calibre," Gatland told the BBC.

"For me it would be such a shame to lose someone of Sam's stature - he is the Wales captain, he is the current Lions captain and I think we can ill afford, from a union's point of view and from a regional point of view, to lose someone of that sort of calibre."

But Gatland admitted that the huge money available elsewhere, particularly the Top 14, and a professional athlete's limited shelf-life meant Warburton should not be begrudged the chance to earn big.

The former Ireland coach referred to Welsh footballer Gareth Bale's record-breaking transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid earlier this year.

"We've got to face reality in terms of the economics and these guys are involved in professional sport," added Gatland.

"And if we can't match the huge offers that are being given to them overseas then sometimes you can't begrudge players those chances.

"They're only in his game for a short time in terms of a professional career and it's about looking after themselves and potentially their future and their families.

"We wouldn't be asking Gareth Bale to turn down that sort of money to play in Wales, if that's what it meant.

"So let's just make sure that we're practical about it and sensible."

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