Regions faced with big decision after French U-turn

THE WELSH regions must decide whether to follow the French after they opted to return to the Heineken Cup and leave the English out in the cold.

Clubs from the France’s Top 14 and England’s Aviva Premiership had declared that they were leaving the ERC in favour of a new breakaway tournament called the Rugby Champions Cup.

Regional Rugby Wales – the body representing Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets – said earlier this month that they favoured joining that tournament.

However, the French, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Italian unions pledged last week to carry on with the Heineken Cup without the English.

And France’s top clubs yesterday agreed to follow the wishes of their Federation and compete in the ERC-run 20-team tournament – for next year at least.

It was a decision that did not please everyone with Racing Metro’s owner Jacky Lorenzetti said to have stormed out of the meeting near Paris.

The chances of the English following them appear to be slim given that they have signed a bumper deal with BT Sport (Sky have the rights to the Heineken Cup), meaning the competition would go ahead without them like in 1998/99.

That would be a serious blow to the tournament and the French are keen to somehow try and bring them back into the fold.

If they fail - as is likely - then there will be serious doubts about how seriously they will take a competition that is planned to include all of the RaboDirect Pro12 sides.

The Welsh quartet must now either follow the French or see what the English offer and, given that they fear a new Participation Agreement with the WRU will not give them the financial boost they need, go down a rebel road.

England, meanwhile, may look to South Africa in order to provide BT with a cross-border competition.

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