The Irish Rugby Football Union will sit down with its counterparts from France, Italy, Scotland and Wales today to reaffirm its commitment to an ERC-organised pan-European club competition for next season.
Amid speculation about proposals for cross-border formats involving Anglo-Welsh alliances and a British and Irish Cup, as well as the English Premiership’s Rugby Champions Cup, the five unions will meet in Dublin today with the intent of showing the rugby world they have the only genuine show in town for 2014-2015, by which time the current European Rugby Cup accord will have dissolved.
The feeling within the five unions is they are the only ones with a concrete, five-nation, 20-club European tournament agreed and in place for the autumn.
Mediated negotiations, involving those five unions as well as fellow stakeholders from England’s RFU, are still set to resume this month following a meeting held on December 21, although Premiership Rugby, the group representing English clubs, refuses to negotiate in any form with ERC.
There is also still major uncertainty surrounding the participation in any ERC-run competition of the four current Welsh regions, which are at odds with the Welsh Rugby Union.
The WRU countered with the threat of cutting off all financial backing for the regions, creating central contracts for its Test players and introducing new teams to play in the new ERC competition. However last week WRU offered something of a more conciliatory olive branch by seeking to renew negotiations with the quartet, Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets.
The regions, meanwhile, have expressed their wish to play in the Rugby Champions Cup (RCC) proposed by Premiership Rugby and more recently have been linked with a 16-team Anglo-Welsh league competition. “An RCC would provide Wales with an extra £12m [€14.5m] over three years and increase funding to Ireland and Scotland, ” the regions said in a statement. “It would not threaten the Six Nations or bring about its demise.”
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