French clubs pull the plug on new European competition
ENGLAND's top clubs appear isolated after their French counterparts released a statement indicating their desire to join a European competition run by the unions.
The future of the proposed breakaway tournament, named the Rugby Champions Cup, hinged on the commitment of the French clubs, but they now look set to join the rival format that will be overseen by European Rugby Cup.
Presidents of the Top 14 teams gathered in Paris on Thursday afternoon for a meeting of Ligue Nationale de Rugby, which runs the league, and chose to side with the governing bodies.
"The clubs voted unanimously that a new structure is put in place to organise new competitions in accordance with the federations," read a statement released by LNR.
Last Thursday the Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French and Italian unions issued a joint statement declaring they stood "side by side" in driving a format overseen by ERC.
Tellingly, the Rugby Football Union was absent from that meeting in Dublin as a result of the refusal by the English clubs, who are represented by Premiership Rugby, to recognise ERC.
Premiership Rugby has been categorical in its refusal to operate under the auspices of ERC, which is run by the unions.
Support for the Rugby Champions Cup from the Top 14 appeared to be wavering last week amid pressure and financial incentives from their union.
Meanwhile Shadow sports minister Clive Efford has urged organisers of the 2015 World Cup to reconsider the 8pm kick-off times allocated to all four of England's group matches.
Concerns have been raised that supporters travelling from outside the south east will struggle to attend the three Pool A games being staged at Twickenham.
"I do have sympathy with fans who object to 8pm kick-offs at Twickenham and they should be listened to," said Efford.
"I hope it's not too late to look at the times again because we're still two years away from the World Cup.
"I would urge them to do so (change the kick-off times) if at all possible. Clearly people will find it difficult to get away.."