THERE is a lingering fear that a European rugby peace deal will ultimately be as successful at solving disputes as the League of Nations.

Just like the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact aimed at preventing war, various figures will sign up and smile while behind the scenes there will be rumblings of discontent.

European rugby is in a mess and it's the RaboDirect Pro12 nations that will suffer while the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 clubs are comforted by having competitions that are actually attractive.

The Scots are in a pickle with just two pro teams (one of which is doing well thanks to quality imports while the other struggles despite its imports), a mediocre national team and grassroots problems.

The Italians are pondering whether it's even worth being involved in a league with the Celtic nations.

The problems in Wales are well-documented with the regions and Welsh Rugby Union tussling over funding and control, all while the club game continues to flounder.

And then there is the Irish, who continue to thrive in the Heineken Cup but who will be desperate for more funds now that the gravy train has been disrupted.

You can point to big attendances in Ireland – and the Dragons will play Ulster at a packed Ravenhill tomorrow evening – but there is no great love affair with the Pro12.

Munster will get a bumper crowd at Thomond Park when they host Toulouse in the European quarter-finals but they must have had some stewards with itchy fingers on their counters when saying that 6,248 watched the Dragons in Cork earlier this season.

Sky's involvement from next year will give the Pro12 a marketing lift while battles for Euro spots will add a bit more spice but one suspects it will still be an underwhelming competition.

If a deal is signed then it's not the time for waving the agreement in the air before cracking open the bubbly.

LITTLE did I know when writing about farcical kick-off times in last week's column that the worst was yet to come.

Newport Gwent Dragons' home RaboDirect Pro12 encounter with Edinburgh will start at 6.30pm on Thursday, April 3.

Last Sunday afternoon's crowd of 3,916 for the clash against Glasgow was bad enough and there will be row upon row of empty seats for the visit of their Scottish rivals.

The regions are often told that they need to acknowledge the markets beyond Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli.

But how are the Dragons meant to make a televised clash at Rodney Parade that starts at 6.30pm an attractive proposition for somebody who clocks off from work in Brynmawr, Rhymney or Abertillery at 5pm?

The regions come up with some pretty good ticket offers for their punters and it's just as well because they are treated like muck far, far too often.