Josh Turnbull: Cardiff Blues forward highlights tough talks over player pay cuts

Venue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli Date: Sat, 22 August Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales & Radio & Radio Cymru, BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary; as live on S4C from 20:00 BST.

Cardiff Blues forward Josh Turnbull has revealed talks over player pay cuts have provided some tough times.

In April, the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) reached an agreement with the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association (WRPA) over a three-month 25% salary cut.

The four Welsh regions are now negotiating with their own squads over further reductions after no permanent deal could be agreed.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Turnbull.

The Pro14 2019-20 season will resume this weekend with Cardiff Blues travelling to face Scarlets and Ospreys hosting Dragons the following day.

It will be a welcome distraction and return to a difficult summer off the field, as Turnbull prepares to captain the side against Scarlets.

Dragons and Scarlets say they have agreed a 25% reduction in player salaries with their squads for the next 12 months, with Cardiff Blues and Ospreys still negotiating.

Alongside Ellis Jenkins, Turnbull is one of two Cardiff Blues WRPA representatives.

“You could spend the first four hours of the day on a Zoom call and then another couple of hours in the afternoon,” said Turnbull.

“It’s going from talking with the WRPA and WRU about where we are financially and in the afternoon, you are maybe speaking to a few players.

“At times it felt like I was the one taking pay cut from the players. For some, it didn’t sink in quite as it did with others.

“At times, you just have to be brutally honest and say, ‘look, the money is not there anymore, it’s not available and the reality is we are going to have to take cuts’.

“It’s hard to come to terms with. I took it personally as well. Having a 25% cut can be a lot to some players, it’s hard to take.

“Just getting that message across to players has been a tough thing to have to do.”

Josh Turnbull has played 135 times for Cardiff Blues
Josh Turnbull has played 135 times for Cardiff Blues

The 32-year-old, who has won 10 caps for Wales, is one of the most respected players in regional rugby, having played more than 100 games for Cardiff Blues and Scarlets – who he left in 2014.

This summer he has also been like an old-fashioned full-time shop steward.

“It’s been a long process and it’s still being dealt with at the moment,” said Turnbull.

“Nothing has been finalised. They are working on it on an individual basis now, all the regions.

“It’s been a tough place to be in, but there are strong enough characters throughout all the regions, senior players who have stood up and looked at every avenue possible in terms of looking after all the players throughout this process.

“You don’t want to go through it and someone comes out the other end and they feel like they have been chewed up and spat out.

“You have got to be mindful there is a diverse group here ranging from all ages, from 17 to 36. Everyone is in a different part of their career.”

Turnbull feels a resolution is close.

“It was a little bit difficult to start off with, trying to get things across the line, but we are in a good place,” said Turnbull.

“Richard Holland (Cardiff Blues chief executive) and his board are working hard to get this across the line for the region and I understand other regions are close to being done.

“It’s not been a good position to be in. But I think we would rather have jobs than not have jobs at all.

“The way things are going out there, with Joe Bloggs, you don’t want to see anyone lose their jobs. We all have an understanding of what’s going on.”

So was he disappointed a collective agreement could not be reached?

“That’s a tough question to ask,” said Turnbull.

“We couldn’t come to an agreement, but it’s by the by now. The regions have dealt with it well enough since it’s come away from those negotiations.”

BBC News