CHRIS KIRWAN: Regions have played the Euro spat superbly

First published in Sport South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

THE chief executives of Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues made their stance pretty clear as they stood shoulder to shoulder on the Arms Park pitch on New Year's Day.

Amid the European rugby rumpus and after letting the deadline pass for signing a fresh participation agreement, Gareth Davies and Richard Holland reaffirmed that the regions' Plan A was to stay with the Welsh Rugby Union and play in the Pro12, Anglo-Welsh Cup and a new Rugby Champions Cup.

Exasperated by the inability to plan for next season they pleaded with the WRU to make it happen or they would leave Celtic rugby to join forces with the Aviva Premiership clubs.

Siding with the English prompted all manner of name-calling from across the Irish Sea, notably from the delightful former international Neil Francis, a man who seems unable to control the urge to swear in his newspaper column.

Now it may be the WRU rather than the regions that are the recipients of Irish barbs thanks to the establishment of a new club-controlled Euro tournament.

Had the Union listened to the regions' concerns then the Dragons, Ospreys, Blues and Scarlets may not have looked over the Severn Bridge. Instead the quartet were ignored so stopped the English being cut adrift, thus helping bring about the end of the Dublin-based European Rugby Cup Ltd.

The regions have been brought closer together by the Euro spat and by working as a tight unit through some hairy moments they have been rewarded with a pretty good outcome of a fairer split of a larger pot of money.

Not only that but Regional Rugby Wales move on to negotiating a fresh participation agreement with the WRU in a stronger position; they are going to be stakeholders in the new European competitions and have an improved relationship with their Aviva Premiership counterparts.

There was undoubtedly some reluctance from over the border to go for an Anglo-Welsh league but the regions would have been a step closer to extinction without the threat of it.

Far from being pawns in an English land grab, the Welsh quartet seem to have played the situation very nicely.

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