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Wales
WRU to offer regions new Participation Agreement
ESPN Staff
January 2, 2014
The regions are currently battling to keep hold of their top players with Sam Warburton just one of a host of individuals whose contracts are up at the end of the season © Getty Images
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The Welsh Rugby Union met on Thursday to discuss the future of the country's domestic game but seems reluctant to bow to the regions' wishes to join the Rugby Champions Cup next season.

The WRU's latest statement

  • "The board of directors of the Welsh Rugby Union met today and unanimously agreed that a positive way forward for professional rugby in Wales as set out in the WRU's statement of December 31 2013, is in the best interests of Welsh rugby.
  • "The WRU has today informed the four regional organisations that they will shortly be presented with a new agreement in respect of professional rugby in Wales. A timetable for discussion has been provided by the WRU.
  • "The new agreement will further reflect the WRU's desire to ensure that Welsh player development and the retention of Welsh players is properly recognised. This is in the best interests of all of rugby in Wales, from the grass roots to the international level."

Both Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) and the WRU issued statements on Tuesday after the deadline for a new Participation Agreement, a contract dealing with funding and player release, came and went without any deal.

The RRW - the body heading up the four regions' interests - and the WRU preached different messages in their respective statements with the RRW wanting the regions to play in the Rugby Champions Cup next season and the WRU reiterating its support for the European Rugby Cup Ltd-run Heineken Cup.

The regions are still hopeful of reaching an agreement with the WRU and the organisation will redraft the new Participation Agreement but is adamant the message in the original statement regarding which tournament the regions will play in - PRO12, LV Cup and Heineken Cup - remains the same regardless of Thursday's meeting.

On Wednesday, Blues CEO Richard Holland discussed the benefits of joining the Rugby Champions Cup with a reported extra £1m on offer for the regions, and RRW's stance received a positive reaction from Premiership Rugby on Thursday, the governing body of the Aviva Premiership and the organisation who created the alternative European tournament.

Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said: "We believe that the new competitions are clearly the best solution. They will deliver more matches between the top teams, as decided on merit, and as the Welsh regions have stated, they will generate the financial returns to ensure continued strong investment into the club game, including player development and retention."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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