The row threatening European cross-border rugby with dramatic implications for Scotland took a new twist today.
A report from South Africa hinted that so-called “rebel” English and French clubs could incorporate the newly-relegated Super 15 team, Southern Kings, into its breakaway competition.
Kings boss Cheeky Watson has told today’s Port Elizabeth Herald: “We are busy with one or two exciting options that will remain confidential at this stage.
“There could be a lot more additional matches, and maybe they are not just friendlies. Let me leave it at that.”
Watson’s comments are being interpreted as an indication talks about joining the breakaway are under way, bearing in mind that the time difference between Europe and South Africa is minimal allowing teams to fly in and out.
At the Scottish launch of the Heineken Cup yesterday it was made clear that no fresh competition would be sanctioned without International Board approval.
If a breakaway occured that would then place Scots plying their trade in England and France on the outside looking in at international matches.
In some ways the situation is a throwback to the split which created rugby league but the current impasse is partly down to broadcasting rights.
ERC have a deal with Sky whereas the English and Frence have aligned themselves to BT.
When the Evening News put it to ERC chief executive Derek McGrath that a solution might be to spread rights between the two as with football’s Champions League he said: “The Sky/ERC relationship is sacrosanct for us (and) it would have to be Sky to make a comment (on) whether that is achievable.
“Sky, from that perspective, have purchased the rights.
“We can’t now go and talk to somebody else and say ‘would you like to have some as well?’ which is what unfortunately has happened.
“Premier Rugby (England’s clubs) knew we were doing the Sky deal but they went off and sold the rights to somebody else. That has already created a difficult situation.”