England and ERC - what happens now?
England's clubs will be missing from next season's Heineken Cup after reconfirming they will not participate in any competition run by European Rugby Cup.
Here, Press Association Sport attempts to answer four key questions over the development.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Premiership Rugby must act quickly to fill the nine weekends that would have been devoted to European action with meaningful competition for 2014-15. Possibilities include a Premiership expanded with Welsh regions or clubs from the Championship, or a competition involving South African provinces. PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty has stated there are other alternatives, but details are sketchy.
HOW WILL THE FRENCH CLUBS REACT?
Do not expect them to withdraw in an act of solidarity. The Ligue Nationale de Rugby promised last week it would only take part in an ERC-run Heineken Cup in 2014-15 if the Premiership clubs are involved. However, the decision to abandon the Rugby Champions Cup before a meaningful detail of the competition had been published highlights its desire to pursue its own interests. Unlike in England, the French union has legal jurisdiction over the Top 14 clubs which enables it to bring greater pressure to bear.
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS FOR ENGLAND AHEAD OF THE 2015 WORLD CUP?
Alarming. The Heineken Cup is the competition that bridges the gap between club and Test rugby and the knockout stages are ferocious. For England head coach Stuart Lancaster to have his players excluded from such a key battleground in the season leading up to the 2015 World Cup is disastrous. The absence of the Premiership clubs will also disappoint the national coaches of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and France as it devalues the tournament in which their players will be competing.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD BEYOND 2014-15?
It is unthinkable that England's clubs will be absent from European competition for any length of time, yet only months ago it was equally unthinkable that the doomsday scenario announced on Thursday night would materialise. Much depends on what position the French clubs take post 2014-15. They have already stated they would like to see a UEFA-style body replace ERC and it is conceivable England could be enticed into such a competition run by a body that has their approval.