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European competitions
IRB lays down the law over breakaway
ESPN Staff
January 8, 2014
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset declares the 2011 Rugby World Cup open, World Cup opening ceremony, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, September 9, 2011
Bernard Lapasset; unambiguous position © Getty Images
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The IRB is finding itself reluctantly dragged into the ongoing saga over the future of European rugby with Bernard Lapasset, the board's chairman, making clear that it would not support any cross-border competitions not backed by the boards of the clubs concerned.

Lapasset's comments seem a clear warning to the Welsh regions who at loggerheads with the WRU and who have been involved in discussions about joining an expanded Aviva Premiership. His views seemingly empower the Welsh board to take a harder-line stance against the four regions.

The IRB position is not new but the timing of Lapasset's remarks will be seen as a clear warning to the regions that any breakaway in conflict with the board will not be tolerated.

As far as Europe is concerned, an IRB statement said it "strongly believes that the establishment of a truly representative pan-European rugby competition that fully complies with IRB regulations and bye-laws is in the best interests of the global game.

"The IRB acknowledges and supports the commitment of the six nations member unions in their ongoing attempts to reach an accord for a genuine European competition that has Europe's top players and fans at heart.

"However, despite progress on key terms for the future of European competition, the apparent lack of a common solution across the six nations unions and their respective clubs, regions and provinces is of concern to the IRB.

RFU chairman Bill Beaumont welcomed the intervention. "Our primary focus should be to maintain a genuinely pan-European tournament. Rest assured I am working closely with RFU chief executive officer Ian Ritchie and other stakeholders to find a solution. I welcome the support of the IRB in helping to ensure that this happens and, of course, as a member union abide by and support the IRB regulations."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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