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English clubs attending cup launch

What looks destined to be the 19th and final Heineken Cup will be launched at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium this morning.

England's six qualified clubs - Leicester, Saracens, Gloucester, Harlequins, Northampton and Exeter - will attend the event, but Premiership Rugby is to press ahead with the creation of the Rugby Champions Cup next season.

European Rugby Cup chief executive Derek McGrath independent chairman Jean-Pierre Lux will outline the latest position of ERC, which runs the Heineken Cup, but the Anglo-French alliance is determined to forge its own path.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has reiterated that top English and French clubs will not attend next month's planned resumption of rescue talks, regardless of the appointment of an independent mediator.

"As far as we are concerned we are not in ERC competitions (after this season) and neither are the French clubs," McCafferty said.

"From our perspective, those competitions in their current form are over. We've served notice and at the end of the notice period we will go to play in new competitions."

All Celtic and Italian teams have been invited to join the Rugby Champions Cup and there has been indications of interest from some.

However, if one or two break ranks then others are expected to follow, especially if a heavyweights such as Leinster, Munster or the Ospreys join the new competition.

The unions of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy released virtually identical statements last Thursday saying they would not sanction their teams playing in any future tournaments not approved by the International Rugby Board.

However, their failure to mention ERC in the statements was telling and the requirement for the IRB to approve the Rugby Champions Cup was already common knowledge.

Any attempt by the IRB will result in legal action, with Saracens chairman Nigel Wray declaring "it doesn't take a genius to work out it's anti-competitive under European law".

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