Rugby Champions Cup confirmed by Premiership Rugby to be open to all European clubs

Plans to leave the Heineken Cup step up after new tournament is confirmed

Anglo-French efforts to form a European breakaway competition have stepped up with the confirmation that a new tournament open to Celtic and Italian teams will be established in time for next season.

Premiership Rugby, in conjunction with its French equivalent Ligue Nationale de Rugby, has announced that the tournament will be called the Rugby Champions Cup.

"The competition will be based on the principles of qualification on merit, a strong competition format, equality between the leagues, higher commercial values for the teams and expansion into new European markets," read a statement released by Premiership Rugby.

The announcement underlines Anglo-French determination to press ahead with their own version of the Heineken Cup, which appears to be in its death throes given the determination to force change.

It also confirms their unwillingness to work under European Rugby Cup, the organisation that runs the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups and that appointed an independent mediator on Friday in an attempt to thrash out a new tournament agreement.

ERC has scheduled the next round of negotiations for October 23, which has further antagonised English and French clubs who had initially demanded urgency in finding a resolution before losing patience and declaring they would forge their own path.

Structural, qualification and financial changes are being sought by the Premiership and Top 14 teams, whose bargaining position is strengthened by a lucrative television rights deal with BT Sport, although the detail of that remains unclear.

If and when ERC - which has agreed a new broadcasting deal with Sky - has been dealt with, union and International Rugby Board approval will be required before the Rugby Champions Cup can begin.

"The Top 14 and Premiership Rugby clubs have already confirmed their participation in the new competition and a joint working group has been created to prepare all necessary elements in good time for the 2014-15 season," Premiership Rugby's statement continued.

"Further details concerning the competition format, marketing and financial aspects of the Rugby Champions Cup will be communicated in October."

PA

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