The Welsh Rugby Union has made a dramatic about-turn in their stand-off with the four regions.
Just a day after the WRU hinting it could set up new franchises to play in European competitions and the Pro12, the national body said it would return to the boardroom with a new agreement for the current regional teams.
This follows after the four regional teams in Wales, called Regional Rugby Wales, stood their ground and declined to sign a new Participation Agreement.
The organisation, RRW, had given the WRU until the end of January 2014 to settle their differences.
On Thursday Welsh chiefs said they will present the country’s four regional teams with a new agreement.
The regions – Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues – want the WRU to back its commitment towards the Rugby Champions Cup next season, a breakaway European competition initially forged by top English and French clubs.
And in another twist Premiership Rugby welcomed support from the Welsh regions for the creation of a new Rugby Champions Cup.
The RCC is an alternative European competition to the European Cup.
The Participation Agreement, which the RRW declined to sign, covers critical areas such as revenue and competition structure.
The regions say WRU bosses cannot currently confirm the make-up of either critical component moving forward, although the regions’ umbrella organisation has also underlined a desire to work with the WRU.
Following the tough stance by the regions, the WRU board of directors met on Thursday and then issued a statement that confirmed their dramatic about turn on the matter.
The WRU claimed the new deal would ensure “…the retention of Welsh players is properly recognised…”
WELSH RUGBY UNION STATEMENT
The Board of Directors of the Welsh Rugby Union met today and unanimously agreed that a positive way forward for professional rugby in Wales as set out in the WRU’s statement of 31 December 2013, is in the best interests of Welsh rugby.
The WRU has today informed the four Regional Organisations that they will shortly be presented with a new agreement in respect of professional rugby in Wales. A timetable for discussion has been provided by the WRU.
The new agreement will further reflect the WRU’s desire to ensure that Welsh player development and the retention of Welsh players is properly recognised. This is in the best interests of all of rugby in Wales, from the grass roots to the international level.
PREMIERSHIP RUGBY STATEMENT
On behalf of its clubs, Premiership Rugby today welcomed the news that the Welsh Regions are backing the creation of the Rugby Champions Cup next season and has endorsed the need for resolution in a short timescale.
The concept of the new competitions was announced in September last year and as well as providing a strong, merit-based sporting format, the Rugby Champions Cup will deliver higher commercial values and a platform for expansion. It remains essential within the governance structure for the new competitions that the participant clubs are able to deliver this sporting and commercial improvement under the overall aegis of unions.
“We believe that the new competitions are clearly the best solution. They will deliver more matches between the top teams, as decided on merit, and as the Welsh Regions have stated, they will generate the financial returns to ensure continued strong investment into the club game, including player development and retention,” said Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty.