Peace in Europe but no deal imminent between WRU and regions

First published in Wales rugby and football
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REGIONAL Rugby Wales have expressed their delight at peace deal over Europe – but have stressed the job is only “half done”.

A new, club rather than Union driven European Rugby Champions Cup has been established for next season, bringing to an end two years of squabbling.

It is set to provide the Welsh regions with a financial boost as they will see their funding rise from just under £4million to just under £7million.

RRW, the organisation that represents Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets, are also among the stakeholders of the new competitions along with the six Unions and the English and French clubs.

That means that they cannot be replaced by other Welsh teams in the tournament but now the quartet must focus on coming to an accord with the WRU over a new participation agreement.

Mark Davies, acting chief executive for RRW, has admitted the two parties are some way off signing a fresh deal. The main sticking point remains the level of funding that the WRU provide.

“By no means is this a nirvana solution, we’ve worked very hard for six months and we’ve got some more resource,” said Davies on the European peace deal.

“But at the end of the day if you take the resource that the Irish and Scottish Unions put into their provinces and clubs and the commercial platform of the English and particular the French leagues, we’ve got a long way to go and there’s still lot of hard work to do.

“I guess you could say the job is only half done.”

Newport Gwent Dragons chief executive Gareth Davies said: “We have to come to an arrangement that will give Regional Rugby Wales an opportunity to be sustainable and competitive. I don’t think that we should accept crumbs from the Union’s table.

“The regions are criticised for their results but are operating with budgets that are a fraction of our Irish counterparts.”

The issue of central contracts remains a thorny one; the WRU say that they will provide £2million from commercial partners to secure deals with key members of Warren Gatland’s squad.

The regions point to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report into their finances, commissioned by the Union, that stated central contracts were not the solution to the Welsh player drain.

Nonetheless, the WRU have already signed up Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton and are looking to secure the services of tighthead Adam Jones.

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