Rugby: Welsh clubs' threat to split the union

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The Independent Online
Welsh rugby could be heading for a deep division at a meeting of the 12 Heineken League First Division clubs in Cardiff tonight. The dozen are so disillusioned that they prepared to discuss a breakaway from the Welsh Rugby Union.

That possibility, which represents the most serious threat this century to the Union's authority to administer and control the sport, could lead to a new super-league and Welsh team.

Meetings have already been held between six of the clubs and tonight's gathering will be presented with proposals that would also go a long way to putting the game at the top level on to a professional footing. "The meeting has been called to sound out the views of the leading clubs as to how they see their own and Welsh international rugby's futures," the Newport chairman, David Watkins said. "We have to have a complete rethink otherwise the whole thing will slide into total oblivion.

"It could be that the leading clubs would organise their own fixtures, which would be self-funding, taking in clubs from other countries."

The WRU general committee are due to sit down for three days later this month to examine their own structure and the league set-up. It appears that everyone at least agrees that the present system is not working.

"We are getting increasingly disappointed and I could see something like a breakaway happening," the Pontypridd chairman, Eddie Jones, said.

The WRU have been aware of the discontent and the chairman, Vernon Pugh, was told of the possible breakaway last month. "I am told a lot of our clubs are dissatisfied and unhappy. We know of the threat and we will listen to what they have to say," Pugh said.

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