THE International Rugby Board has reaffirmed that they will not support cross-border competitions that lack approval from the unions of participating teams.
The Welsh Rugby Union are viewing it as a significant moment in their long-running dispute with Wales’s rugby regions.
It means the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons face a further hurdle to clear if they are to secure the right to figure in competitive cross-border games against English clubs without the consent of the WRU.
They have given the union until January 31 to approve their wish to take part in the Rugby Champions Cup or they will pursue other competition options, namely an Anglo-Welsh league.
But IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “In the interests of the global game, the IRB reaffirms that it will not support any cross-border competitions that are not approved by the unions of any participating clubs, rugby bodies and host countries in full accordance with IRB regulations and bye-laws.
“In order to reach an outcome that is in the best interests of rugby globally, the IRB will work actively with its unions towards the goal of achieving a unified and acceptable outcome for all stakeholders involved."
The statement is no great surprise, with world rugby’s governing body hardly likely to welcome any of their member unions being circumvented. The regions still have the option of contesting the position in court to back up their belief that they are the victims of a restraint of trade by not being allowed to play in a league against English sides.
But they contend, anyway, that their goal is to play in competitions sanctioned by the WRU.
The rest of the IRB’s statement runs: “The International Rugby Board strongly believes that the establishment of a truly representative pan-European Rugby competition that fully complies with IRB Regulations and bye-laws is in the best interests of the global game.
The IRB acknowledges and supports the commitment of the six nations member unions in their ongoing attempts to reach an accord for a genuine European competition that has Europe’s top players and fans at heart.
However, despite progress on key terms for the future of European competition, the apparent lack of a common solution across the six nations Unions and their respective clubs, regions and provinces is of concern to the IRB.”