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Volume 10 No. 25
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Int'l Rugby Board CEO Brett Gosper Against Plans For New Anglo-French Tournament

England's top clubs were warned on Wednesday that "their plans to break away from the rest of Europe and form a new Anglo-French tournament would be vetoed" by the Int'l Rugby Board, according to Chris Foy of the London DAILY MAIL. The Premiership elite and their Gallic counterparts "abruptly announced last week that they would be abandoning the drawn-out negotiations" with other European Rugby Cup stakeholders aimed at overhauling the current Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups. However, "their bold vision for new tournaments run by the clubs require consent from national unions and the world governing body and it has become apparent that such approval would not be forthcoming from the IRB." Speaking about the escalating conflict on Wednesday, IRB CEO Brett Gosper said, "We don't believe in an Anglo-French competition. We strongly believe it should be a European competition. That is our firm belief and what we would be supporting and throwing our weight behind. We have to ultimately approve any cross-border competition. Firstly each union has to approve it and ultimately, the IRB would have to approve it. A full European competition is the right thing for the game of rugby in terms of development, growth and so on. That is how we see it" (DAILY MAIL, 9/18).

OPTIMISM ABOUNDS: The BBC reported Gosper insisted he remains "very hopeful and optimistic" a compromise can be reached. Leicester Tigers Chair Peter Tom said, "The most important thing is that whatever happens is for the benefit of the clubs and English rugby" (BBC, 9/18). In Sydney, Julian Guyer wrote a European Cup without English and French clubs would leave a tournament made up of the same sides that compete in the domestic Celtic League, "although there have been suggestions South African provincial teams could fill the gap caused by an Anglo-French breakaway." The Premiership's French equivalent, the Top 14, have long said that "they will not play in a European competition where no English clubs are involved" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 9/19).

: In Edinburgh, David Ferguson wrote British and Irish Lions Tour Manager Andy Irvine "is confident that the warring factions in the Heineken Cup debate will come together and create a ­vibrant new competition to suit all nations." On the subject of the Heineken Cup debate, he said, "I am an optimist and I know that they still seem quite far apart, but the prize is so great that I can't believe for a minute that common sense won't prevail. I will be very surprised if they don't reach some form of agreement and we see a vibrant new Heineken Cup next season. It's a bit like pressing the ­nuclear button, isn't it? Everybody will lose if they don't manage to save it" (SCOTSMAN, 9/19).