IRB to bring all parties together in bid to break Euro deadlock
THE IRFU and the rest of the Six Nations unions received a boost in their battle for control of European club rugby as the International Rugby Board (IRB) reiterated their support.
It is understood the IRB is ready to call all six unions and relevant club bodies to a summit meeting to broker a final solution to the European wrangles. A date for that meeting has yet to be confirmed.
As the uncertainty over the future of European rugby continues, the game's governing body stated they would not back any cross-border tournament that did not have the unions' support.
Their statement appears to remove the prospect of the proposed Anglo-Welsh league happening as the Welsh regions do not have the backing of the WRU.
With the warring factions still at loggerheads over a number of issues, the board's intervention was a timely fillip for the unions who met in Dublin on Tuesday.
What material impact the IRB's backing can have remains to be seen with the cloud of conflicting TV rights deals hanging over all of the discussions.
With the English clubs and Welsh regions insisting they want to form a new competition to be shown on BT Sport instead of the ERC-run Heineken Cup, televised by Sky, there is still no white smoke on what awaits next season.
The French clubs, meanwhile, have stated they only want to play in an ERC competition if their English counterparts are involved.
Chairman Bernard Lapasset reiterated the IRB's refusal to sanction any cross-border competition not backed by each union involved.
"In order to reach an outcome that is in the best interests of Rugby globally, the IRB will work actively with its Unions towards the goal of achieving a unified and acceptable outcome for all stakeholders involved," he said.
The RFU put its weight behind the IRB's latest statement, with chairman Bill Beaumont confirming urgent work continues towards a solution.
"Our primary focus should be to maintain a genuinely pan-European tournament," the former England and Lions second-row said. "Rest assured I am working closely with RFU CEO Ian Ritchie and other stakeholders to find a solution. I welcome the support of the IRB in helping to ensure that this happens and of course as a member union abide by and support the IRB regulations."
After weeks of stand-off between the Welsh regions and union, there was some movement on their future as the Dragons confirmed they have signed Aled Brew and Lee Byrne for next season, while the other three regions offered fresh deals to their internationals.