European plot thickens

Date published: January 14 2014

Officials from the RFU and the FFR met on Monday seeking to end the European crisis while Italian clubs threatened to pull out of the Pro12.

Top members of the RFU and French equivalents, the FFR, met on Monday seeking a resolution to the ongoing conflict in European rugby.

The Daily Telegraph claimed RFU chairman, Bill Beaumont, and CEO Ian Ritchie held talks with Pierre Camou, the FFR chairman and the driving force behind persuading rebel French clubs to remain with the current Heineken Cupp rather than looking to form a new tournament.

It is thought that Beaumont and Ritchie were aiming to convince Camou that a new model of pan-European governance, dealt with by the Six Nations, would prove advantageous without diminishing the FFR's influence.

Camou has been steadfast in his backing of FIRA, the administration group of European rugby, to assume governance from current organisers ERC.

These talks are not before time, with the future of the PRO12 competition also under serious question; the Daily Mail reporting that the president of Italian rugby has threatened to pull both Treviso and Zebre out of the league.

This signals yet another problem for Celtic rugby; the four Welsh regions already having made clear their intention to abandon the PRO12 in favour of inclusion in the English Premiership next season should the WRU fail to produce an agreeable participation agreement by next month.

The comments of FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi stem from concerns that the union's 70m Euro investment in the nation's two pro-teams has not been justified, with results and league placings uninspiring.

With Italy's own participation agreement due to run out at the end of the season, it is anticipated that, should Treviso and Zebre be withdrawn from the PRO12, the body would seek to refocus their cash on developing a stronger domestic league.

Indeed, Gavazzi does not feel the duo are treated as equals by the respective Scottish, Irish and Welsh teams that comprise the rest of the tournament.

A meeting between stakeholders from all four nations has been tabled for Monday in London.