Sport Rugby

Friday 22 August 2014

Celtic nations holding out for extra Euro berth

David Kelly

Published 24/10/2013 | 01:00

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Talks aimed at securing the future of a genuine pan-European competition will continue at a secret Dublin location today.

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Heavy-hitters from the six national unions – Ireland, England, France, Wales, Italy and Scotland – along with Heineken Cup organisers ERC, met yesterday for several hours with mediator Graeme Mew.

However, there were no representatives from the English or French clubs, who have led breakaway plans to form a new competition called the Rugby Champions Cup.

And there was also no representative from the regional clubs in Wales who had, on the eve of the meeting, declared their support for the secession plans.

English RFU chairman Ian Ritchie, under pressure to secure a deal as he tries to avoid player release issues ahead of his country's hosting of the 2015 World Cup, will be a key individual in the talks.

He is believed to be tabling the terms by which the Celtic unions, who remain opposed to the breakaway, might be persuaded to succumb or else face the financial black hole of beginning next season without European competition.

The Celtic nations are believed to be holding out for an extra qualification place in the revised competition.

This would mean seven Pro12 sides would qualify every season, guaranteeing one from each country and potentially allowing all three of Leinster, Munster and Ulster to qualify.

A statement may be released later today when the talks conclude, although, if the discussions remain at a delicate stage, discretion may be decreed a more constructive route to take in a process which has largely been conducted via megaphone diplomacy.

Irish Independent

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