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McCafferty: Cup talks are over

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has reiterated that top English and French clubs will not attend next month's planned resumption of Heineken Cup rescue talks.

McCafferty confirmed that England's six qualified clubs - Leicester, Saracens, Gloucester, Harlequins, Northampton and Exeter - will be represented at this season's English and Welsh Heineken media launch in Cardiff next Monday.

But, looking further ahead, he told Press Association Sport: "We are certainly not attending the meetings on October 23 and 24 that we have been invited to, and the French clubs aren't either.

"As far as we are concerned we are not in ERC (European Rugby Cup) competitions, and neither are the French clubs.

"From our perspective, those competitions in their current form are over. We don't have any dispute with ERC, from our point of view, which is why the appointment of a mediator (Canadian lawyer Graeme Mew) by ERC is a bit odd.

"We've served notice, we are discharging all of our obligations during that notice period, and at the end of that notice period we will go to play in new competitions. There is no dispute about that from our point of view."

Celtic unions Wales, Scotland and Ireland released virtually identical statements on Thursday saying they would not sanction their teams to play in any future tournaments not approved by the International Rugby Board.

It follows plans announced earlier this week for a new Rugby Champions Cup next season spearheaded by the leading English and French clubs.

But Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby are forging ahead with their own blueprint, having also extended an invitation to Celtic and Italian teams to join them.

"We expect the RFU (Rugby Football Union) to support us," McCafferty added.

"We are putting a competition format and a financial structure in place through the Rugby Champions Cup that is going to be attractive to everyone participating in it.

"We believe, as we've said, that quite a number of teams want to be in the Rugby Champions Cup, so we will continue working through the working group to put in place the remaining details in October of the competition.

"We accept that we need then to present it as an option or invitation to others as to whether they want to be part of that or not.

"If people do, great, and if they don't - or they are not allowed to be part of it - then they must make their own decisions.

"Teams will want to be in this competition, particularly if it's commercially attractive. They may well need their union's support on that, but frankly if there is no viable alternative then people want to be part of what is a strong option that is on the table.

"We are looking to pull final details together by the end of October. We need to know within that time frame whether people are in or not in.

"The door is open for others, and we would want others to be involved so we can have a broader European competition."

In its statement, the WRU said: "The Welsh Rugby Union remains fully committed to the development of a pan-European rugby competition.

"We welcome the recent comments made by the International Rugby Board chairman, who confirmed that a pan-European tournament remains the goal of the IRB.

"The Welsh Rugby Union wishes to clarify that it will not sanction any of its clubs or regions participating in future tournaments which do not have the full approval of the IRB and the WRU.

"The WRU wants an agreement to be achieved and reiterates its determination to negotiate a new format for the European Cup with all of the stakeholders.

"The WRU's focus is to work collaboratively with our colleagues across Europe, encouraging all parties to conclude our negotiations as quickly as possible."

The SRU and IRFU concurred, and the French Rugby Federation said last weekend that it would not support any new Anglo-French competition.

ERC bosses Jean-Pierre Lux and Derek McGrath, meanwhile, are due to address the media at the Millennium Stadium next Monday.


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