18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
They got the deal they wanted for the 29-year-old Wales fullback - scorer of 34 tries in 77 tests and who had an excellent World Cup - after holding talks with Toulouse, who will defend their European title against English champions Wasps on May 23, last Friday. "We got what we wanted," Warriors chief executive Leighton Samuel told BBC Radio after concluding a deal believed to be in the region of 200,000 pounds (250,000 dollars) which will also include the gate receipts from a friendly with Toulouse.
"I've spoken to Gareth and to the Union and we've all agreed he can go."
Thomas - who had two years to run on his contract - joins Wales captain Colin Charvis in France, the latter having joined second divison Tarbes prior to last year's World Cup, and with fly-half Stephen Jones being linked to Montferrand.
The agreement is thought to be double the original offer by Toulouse which was contested by the WRU as they are 50% stakeholders in the Warriors and were reluctant to allow such a high quality player move abroad but with the extra money and the fact Thomas was determined to leave they relented.
"It wasn't about money," Samuel said. "I would have put together a financial package to match Toulouse's.
"David Moffett (WRU group chief executive) and myself both agree that we did all we could to keep Gareth in Wales.
"It was a lifestyle thing. Gareth feels he has two-to-three years left in him and wants to experience French rugby.
"Who can blame him? He has achieved everything in Welsh domestic rugby and I imagine Toulouse is a very nice place to live.
"Funding is an issue, though. Toulouse have a wage bill in the region of 3-4 million pounds per year and we cannot compete with that in Wales."
Samuel is confident that Thomas will continue playing for Wales just as Charvis has - and he has not ruled out the possibility of his returning to the Warriors.
"Playing for Wales is paramount to Gareth, that will have been in his contract and there are plenty more international caps and tries to come for him," said Samuel.
"If he is not happy in Toulouse we have a clause in his contract that he will come straight back to the Warriors - I hope to see him around Christmas!"
AFP - 2004.