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Premiership Rugby

Gloucester not facing mass exodus’ says Walkinshaw

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Walkinshaw, who has been involved with the club since 1997, initially responded to reports that two French players – Olivier Azam and Ludovic Mercier – will quit the club at the end of the season and head back across the Channel, sparking a mass exodus of players.

"The team is not going to be broken up," said Walkinshaw. "At the end of every season we have the same nonsense about who is going and who is not going – all this doom and despondency suddenly grows.

"Every year we continue to build strength in the team and it performs better.

"We have one or two unique situations where Olivier Azam wants the chance to play for France in the World Cup and he will not get that chance unless he is at a French club.

"He spoke to me about the situation – we could have kept him here, but it is his last chance to play in a World Cup and, given the chance, he would come back here at the end of that season. "He has given everything we could have asked for and we must support him.

"He will only sign a one-year deal and then come back here after the World Cup, which I think is super. To prevent him doing it would have been totally wrong."

Due to contract negotiations and an agreement with his agent, Walkinshaw was unable to talk about fly-half Ludovic Mercier's position until the end of the season.

But he insisted that Nigel Melville's budget for next season rests right on the salary cap ceiling and that the strength of the squad will remain.

"The budget that was signed off for the team is a full salary cap budget. There will probably be a few teams on substantially less. "He (Melville) cannot have any more money signed off. That's it. It should not have any impact on the team next year.

"We always have this crisis, because rumours get out and the jungle drums beat. We always seem to get a bit hysterical down here.

"This club has probably had the best season in its history and you do not get that unless you have a contented squad all playing for each other.

"There have been a lot of distractions, but the squad has not reacted to it and they have delivered the goods. Within the parameters set down by the league, the coaches have everything they could ask for.

"It is about building and strengthening the thing, not weakening it."

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