WRU move to end regions rift

The Welsh Rugby Union are confident of persuading the four Welsh regions to sign a new Participation Agreement after drawing up new proposals.

The rift between the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales widened earlier this week when RRW refused to extend the original agreement before the New Year's Eve deadline.

The four regions - the Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons - did not want to commit for a further four years under the agreement, which, among other elements, governs the competitions the sides play in and international player release.

RRW claimed the WRU's inability to confirm what competitions the regions will play in next season, with the futures of the Heineken Cup and RaboDirect Pro12 - as well as incomes resulting from those tournaments - yet to be decided, left them with little option.

But the WRU have issued a statement confirming they have invited RRW to open talks over a newly-formed agreement that is in the "best interests of all of rugby in Wales".

The statement read: "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 31 December 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."

A RRW statement released earlier this week revealed they had set a new deadline on January 31 for the issues to be resolved read, although it warned the regions would "pursue further competition options immediately".

"As it stands, the Regions do not believe the Participation Agreement reflects the changes and demands of the modern game."

The Welsh regions have given their support to the proposed creation of the Rugby Champions Cup next season, a move that has won backing from Premiership Rugby.

"On behalf of its clubs, Premiership Rugby today welcomed the news that the Welsh Regions are backing the creation of the Rugby Champions Cup next season and has endorsed the need for resolution in a short timescale," a statement read.

"The concept of the new competitions was announced in September last year and as well as providing a strong, merit-based sporting format, the Rugby Champions Cup will deliver higher commercial values and a platform for expansion.

"It remains essential within the governance structure for the new competitions that the participant clubs are able to deliver this sporting and commercial improvement under the overall aegis of unions."

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty added: "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."