Rugby Union: Europe set to pay for peace deal

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The Independent Online
THE Rugby Football Union will today pass judgement on a peace deal for the English game that leaves the Heineken Cup, the most exciting and successful club tournament in Europe, as its major casualty, writes Chris Hewett. Sources indicated yesterday that England's Premiership clubs had refused to reconsider their controversial boycott of the competition.

Negotiating panels from the RFU and the English Rugby Partnership, the clubs' umbrella organisation, have thrashed out an agreement aimed at ending the long-running political in-fighting that has disfigured and destabilised the fledgling professional game for more than two years.

Key points are said to include an Allied Dunbar Premiership expanded to accommodate 14 top-flight teams, the introduction of standard player contracts with built-in international release dates and an agreement by the clubs to ease fixture congestion by playing competitive rugby on England Test weekends.

But the Heineken Cup now seems certain to go ahead next season without English participation.