IRB gives all-inclusive European cup full backing
There was a boost for the four Irish provinces yesterday when the International Rugby Board (IRB) fired a warning shot in the escalating conflict over the future of the European game.
In a move that will be welcomed by the IRFU and its four professional sides, IRB chief executive Brett Gosper suggested the body would not sanction any new Anglo-French club competition.
Any tournament between clubs from different countries requires the blessing not only of the respective home unions, but also the IRB, and as the 12 Premiership clubs met in London yesterday to discuss options, Gosper cautioned against a competition involving only the English and French sides.
"We don't think that's in the best interests of the game, no," said Gosper.
"We don't believe in an Anglo-French competition. We strongly believe it should be a European competition and that's what we would be supporting and throwing our weight behind."
The IRB want the Welsh, Irish, Scots and Italian sides to be included in any future competition. However, at the meeting in London Premiership clubs reaffirmed that they, plus the French clubs, will quit the Heineken Cup at the end of this season. The views expressed by Gosper yesterday indicate the size of the obstacles that still lie ahead of any Anglo-French competition, especially were IRB opposition to harden.
If the Premiership and Top 14 clubs go it alone, it could lead the sport straight to the nearest courtroom, and the implications of that are severe.