Welsh regions back proposed Heineken Cup replacement

Jonny Wilkinson, the Toulon captain, holds the Heineken Cup after victory over ASM Clermont Auvergne on May 18, 2013. Picture: David Rogers (Getty Images). No Welsh club has ever won the Cup
Jonny Wilkinson, the Toulon captain, holds the Heineken Cup after victory over ASM Clermont Auvergne on May 18, 2013. Picture: David Rogers (Getty Images). No Welsh club has ever won the Cup
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Welsh rugby’s four professional regions have pledged support for the Rugby Champions Cup and claimed the proposed new competition offers “significant advantages”.

Backing for an Anglo-French led tournament from the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons, via their umbrella organisation Regional Rugby Wales, came ahead of talks aimed at salvaging the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup next term.

Meetings convened by European Rugby Cup will take place in Dublin today and Thursday, although top English and French clubs have no intention of taking part.

England’s Premiership Rugby and France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby are currently serving a two-year notice period to quit ERC-run competitions, which will be completed next summer.

RRW’s announcement is a huge development for the Anglo-French alliance following their decision to quit ERC over what they see as an unfair qualification process for the Heineken Cup, notably via the RaboDirect PRO12, and an uneven distribution of funds.

The Rugby Champions Cup is a proposed 20-team tournament run by clubs, rather than unions.

And both Premiership Rugby and LNR, in establishing the Rugby Champions Cup last month, issued an open invitation to teams from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy to join them. Any new set-up, would bring an end to automatic qualification for Edinburgh and Glasgow, who would have to qualify for Europe through the RaboDirect PRO12.

In a statement, RRW said: “Regional Rugby Wales, on behalf of the four Welsh regions, confirms its full support for the proposed new Rugby Champions Cup competitions.

“Whilst there remain elements of detail to be confirmed, it is now clear that there are a number of significant advantages to the new competitions in equality of governance, format, qualification and distribution across the individual participating clubs. Consequently, RRW looks forward to working with the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) to support their efforts and positive engagement in striving to ensure our teams are involved in strong, valuable European clubs competitions in time for next season.”

The Welsh Rugby Union, Scottish Rugby Union and Irish Rugby Union have said their clubs will not take part in any European competition unless it has International Rugby Board backing. The French Rugby Federation is against the Rugby Champions Cup. The Rugby Football Union has yet to make its position public. But the Welsh regions, whose financial struggles are well-chronicled as they struggle to keep star players beyond this season, have now nailed their colours firmly to the mast.

The WRU has yet to comment on the latest developments.