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Third-tier event could ease crisis

A third-tier competition comprising low-ranked national teams and club sides could help to solve the European rugby union crisis, Press Association Sport understands.

The Six Nations committee looks set to govern the Rugby Champions Cup next season, to replace the Heineken Cup run by European Rugby Cup (ERC).

Six Nations bosses would also administrate a second-tier contest to replace the Amlin Challenge Cup.

But under plans currently being discussed, FIRA-AER, the amateur European rugby association, would govern a new third-tier tournament aimed at developing the game across the continent.

National teams like Portugal, Spain and Holland could compete alongside club sides from Italy and other European league systems, if the latest radical proposal is backed.

The French clubs wanted FIRA to control all European knock-out rugby next season, replacing ERC entirely, with the English teams favouring the Six Nations committee.

But the newly-suggested solution indicates a compromise that could prove one of the vital steps towards saving Europe-wide cup rugby.

Should a third-level competition get the go-ahead, FIRA-AER would govern proceedings from a base in Geneva.

It is understood administration of the frontline competition could yet remain in Dublin, where ERC's headquarters are situated.

A Heineken Cup alternative run by the Six Nations would only add to John Feehan's power across the continent.

The Six Nations chief executive is also CEO of the British and Irish Lions and the RaboDirect Pro12.

The television rights battle between BT Sport and Sky still defines the European impasse, with the RFU thought to be attempting to broker a compromise between the two rival broadcasters.

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis hopes now to see a quick resolution to the European saga, with more Six Nations committee meetings scheduled for the next fortnight.

"Personally I would like to see the competitions resolved by the end of the Six Nations," Lewis told Wales Online.

"But it will take as long as it takes because we need to get the right resolution. When you get to the final part of negotiations the devil is in the detail."

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