23 Sep 2013

European rugby breakaway closer

8:52 am on 23 September 2013

English and French rugby clubs have pressed on with plans for a breakaway from the Heineken Cup with the announcement that their competition would be called the Rugby Champions Cup and open to Celtic and Italian clubs.

Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby say it will be set up in time for the 2014/15 season and be open to teams from all three leagues in Europe, with the Premiership and Top 14 clubs already confirming their participation with a joint working group set up.

The other European league is the Pro12 and involves clubs from Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The English and French clubs announced earlier this month that they planned to set up their own competition, after running out of patience with stalled negotiations over the future of the Heineken Cup.

Europe's two most powerful unions are frustrated by what they see as a qualifying system unfairly weighted in favour of Ireland, Wales and Scotland and want a greater share of income from the tournament.

The International Rugby Board says it does not want to see an Anglo-French breakaway and did not think it was in the interest of the game.