Welsh rugby regions will join Aviva Premiership
The Welsh rugby regions have now admitted that they plan to join the Aviva Premiership if the new Rugby Champions Cup that the Premiership clubs are behind is not launched to replace the Heineken Cup.
The WRU have confirmed that no talks have happened about starting new regions if the existing ones walk away as threatened. The regions are involved with plans for a massive shakeup in the European game that will see the Heineken Cup and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup replaced by a new tournament that will be under the control of the clubs. The regions believe that the new tournament will generate at least £1million per team more than the current top tier European club competition does.
The biggest party behind the new competition is Premier Rugby who run the English Premiership. They have already sold TV rights to their European games to BT Sport, a move that prompted the current rights holders to resign their deal with Sky Sports. The battle lines have been pretty clearly drawn so the Welsh regions had to choose a side.
Gareth Davies, chief executive of Newport Gwent Dragons, said: "The understanding we have with the English clubs is quite solid, whilst not underestimating the enormous hurdles that are in the way of that happening."
As the regions have not signed an agreement with the WRU, the Welsh Union would have been within their rights to create new teams to take part in Europe. WRU chief Roger Lewis though has confirmed that “as the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, I've not had any private conversations about setting up any new regions.” He added that the union is “committed to making the four regions work.”
With the plans for next season’s European Cup in the air, the six competing unions of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy will meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation.