WRU's night of reconciliation

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The Independent Online
The Welsh Rugby Union will sit down with its 12 senior clubs tonight in a last ditched effort to stop the national game being ripped apart.

The First Division clubs are already recommending to their members that they back their bid to go it alone and look after their own affairs - principally the money-spinning aspects of competition sponsorship and television deals.

The chairman of First Division Rugby Limited, Peter Thomas, said: "We have a great rugby product to put forward for players and fans alike. So far the Union has stymied that - the WRU has had a chance and failed. We feel that we may need to look after our own affairs. Each club has budgeted for its own affairs this season but the WRU can't meet the financial fulfilment we require to make the books balance.

"We want to work with the WRU, but we are now a professional body. We put forward plans for an Anglo-Welsh competition and a European tournament on a home and away basis. We want to work with the WRU and not against them, but commercial common sense must prevail.

"You can't run a business while holding out a begging bowl. We meet with the WRU and we need to have clear dialogue with them."

After the clubs, who insist they are not scaremongering, had made their proposals public in the wake of a meeting with their England counterparts at Bristol last Friday, the WRU responded by declaring they would be "surprised and disappointed" at a breakaway that would jeopardise the whole fabric of the game in Wales.

There is also the threat of the Union expelling the 12 clubs if they go their own way but Gareth Davies, Cardiff's chief executive, was adamant that "these are difficult times in the game, it is all about control. We have a product and we want control of that. Why should people make money on our backs?

"You see it in football where the clubs run the game. They have shown the way ahead. We have got genuine problems and one way to solve those problems is to get together with the English clubs and make some meaningful competitions that are attractive to players and fans. The ball is in the Union's court."

Thousands of cheering New Zealanders lined the streets of Auckland yesterday to welcome home the All Blacks. Supporters of all ages gathered to pay tribute to the first All Black team to beat the Springboks in a series on South African soil. The All Blacks, dubbed "The Incomparables" after their 2-1 series win, were carried by a cavalcade of floats and cars through a sea of black and white banners. In all, New Zealand won three Tests in the Republic, the third being part of the Tri-Nations series involving Australia. Under their new coach, John Hart, they won nine of the 10 tests they played this season.