Unions hold European talks

Date published: January 22 2014

The Six Nations Council said on Tuesday it had held “constructive talks” regarding the future of European club rugby.

The Six Nations Council said Tuesday it had held “constructive talks” regarding the future of European club rugby but appeared to rule out support for the breakaway Rugby Champions Cup.

Tuesday's meeting featured representatives from the English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French and Italian unions who, rather than the clubs, are the dominant voices in the current European Rugby Cup structure which runs both the existing European Cup and the second-tier European Challenge Cup.

English and French clubs, unhappy with their share of commercial revenue and having to endure a gruelling qualification process when teams elsewhere in Europe are guaranteed places, served notice in August 2012 they would withdraw from ERC tournaments at the end of the 2013/14 season.

But their alternative plan for a new Rugby Champions Cup appeared doomed when French clubs, under pressure from the French Rugby Federation (FFR), pulled out last month.

Five of Europe's six leading unions, excluding England's Rugby Football Union, then revealed plans for a five-nation 20-team tournament next season, with the FFR pledging to enter six sides.

However, the French clubs have insisted they will not take part in a European tournament where there is no English participation while the four Welsh regions, who are involved in a domestic dispute with the Welsh Rugby Union, have voiced their desire to play in the RCC.

English clubs have said they are happy for the RCC to come under the jurisdiction of the Six Nations.

However, International Rugby Board rules state any tournament must have their backing and that of the relevant national unions, something likely to be withheld from the RCC.

And a statement following Tuesday's meeting endorsed that position.

“The Six Nations Council had a constructive meeting today and remains committed to finding a Six Nations solution for European rugby in the best interests of the game.

“The Council also reaffirmed its commitment to abide by IRB regulations.”

On advancement was a change in stance by the FFR, who now seem willing to participate in a European Cup run by the Six Nations. The FFR had wanted the competition to be run by Fira – the organisation made up of the smaller unions in Europe – but after a meeting with the RFU last week, has gone back to where it was in October.