The Ospreys will be missing Wales defender Nicky Smith at the end of the season and a number of English clubs are interested in signing him.

The top seed, who was surprisingly absent from Warren Gatland’s Six Nations squad, is one of the most destructive players in the Rugby United Championship.

And his prowess has attracted interest from Bath, Bristol Bears, Gloucester and Northampton Saints, who are interested in his services.

The Professional Rugby Board has yet to lift the contract freeze as the Welsh Rugby Union and the four regions try to reach a new long-term funding deal.

Even if the deal is signed, the figures mean the regions will struggle to compete with smaller teams and Welsh rugby wages will be reduced.

As a result, some of Wales’ biggest talents were in danger of relegation, with English, French and Japanese clubs following suit. Will Rowlands has already signed for Racing 92 and Josh Adams is a target for French side Lyon, who are ready to offer Cardiff a transfer fee to sign him later this season.

Wales Online understands that Smith is likely to leave the Ospreys at the end of the season, but has yet to decide on a fate.

If he leaves Welsh rugby, he will be ineligible to play Test rugby under the 60 match rule, unless PRB listens to Gatland and relaxes him into a Rugby World Cup year, or drops him altogether.

The 28-year-old, who made 42 appearances for Wales, is a renowned scrum maker and did vital work in last week’s clash with Montpellier and Leicester Tigers, and is a huge threat at half-time.

If Smith decides to leave Wales, the Ospreys will retain Wales squad member Gareth Thomas, but the loss of the set-piece specialist will still be a blow.

  • The Jamie George incident is outrageous and warrants an investigation

  • ‘Child abuse jokes’ claimed at WRU event as details of Amanda Blank’s devastating resignation speech emerge

  • Welsh rugby union accused of ‘toxic culture’ as former employee exposed

  • Exile Hunter: Anonymous talent scout tasked with finding New Wales star Warren Gatland

  • Josh Adams in grave danger of leaving Wales as Gatland faces huge success