NEWPORT Gwent Dragons chief executive Gareth Davies has admitted that playing in an Anglo-Welsh League is an option if no agreement is reached in the dispute between the four regions and the Welsh Rugby Union.
The possibility of participation in such a competition has been rumoured but when pushed during a BBC Wales debate on the crisis in Welsh rugby he confirmed that it was a course of action being considered.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis, however, told the audience: “The Union will not allow the regions to play in the Aviva Premiership.”
The regions, Dragons, Scarlets, Ospreys and Blues, want to play in a new European competition next season, the Rugby Champions Cup, rather than the Heineken Cup – an initiative being driven by the top English clubs. And they are unhappy with the commercial benefits of staying in the RaboDirect Pro12, unsure of who will sponsor it in the future.
The Union, however, is committed to both the Heineken Cup and the Pro 12.
In a lively debate, in which Davies was also representing the other regions, there appeared to be little sign of the warring parties coming together. Although there are more talks planned for tomorrow.
Both sides agreed that there was a crisis in European rugby with Davies stressing that in terms of finance the French were sprinting ahead with huge commercial deals.
He also stressed that there had to be “collaboration” between the parties for a solution to be found, not the “master and servant relationship.”
On the subject of central contracts, Lewis told the audience that the WRU could find extra money to keep the remaining top talent in Wales, if agreement could be reached. He said the money would come from “our relationship with key partners.”
Former WRU chief executive David Moffett was in the audience and said he could sort out the problem because of his greater knowledge of central contracting.
“You either have everyone on a central contract or no one,” he said.