'The right choice'
WALES's regions had no choice but to give their support to the Rugby Champions Cup, believes a figure from the days when Welsh rugby last flirted with rugby rebellion.
Tony Clement, part of the Swansea set-up when they and Cardiff fell out with the Welsh Rugby Union and played a season of friendlies against leading sides in England, reckons the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons have made the right call in nailing their colours to the mast of the new Anglo-French tournament.
"It had to happen," said Clement.
"The current situation hasn't been working out for the four professional sides and they had to do something.
"I don't see what choice they had.
"They are clearly finding the going tough financially and have obviously made a decision to try to improve their lot.
"I feel sorry for them in many respects. Wales are doing well and rightfully getting praise, but the regions are not competing on a level playing field and every time they fail they get a kicking.
"It doesn't make sense to me, and if there's any way of improving that position then they should take it."
The regions believe their European money will increase from £1.1 million each a season to £1.7 million by taking part in the new tournament.
ERC were scheduled to hold talks in Dublin yesterday on the crisis that has split European rugby, but the English and French were pushing on with their plans for a completely fresh club-run competition.
The Celtic unions had previously blocked any of their professional teams from taking part in an event that didn't have IRB approval.
There have been whispers of a watered-down Heineken Cup, maybe featuring second-tier clubs from England and France and the Celtic teams, but the Welsh regions see it as a non-starter and believe their decision to back the Rugby Champions Cup is in the interests of their players, sponsors, staff and supporters.
They want the Welsh Rugby Union to back them.
And it could be that they will if the RFU and the French federation both endorse the new tournament and the IRB offer support as well.
But, ultimately, the regions felt it was time to make a stand.
Their statement ran: "Regional Rugby Wales, on behalf of the four Welsh regions, confirms its full support for the proposed new Rugby Champions Cup competitions.
"Whilst there remain elements of detail to be confirmed, it is now clear that there are a number of significant advantages to the new competitions in equality of governance, format, qualification and distribution across the individual participating clubs.
"Consequently, RRW looks forward to working with the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) to support their efforts and positive engagement in striving to ensure our teams are involved in strong, valuable European clubs competitions in time for next season."
Clement added: "The impasse had to be broken and if this move helps in that respect, then well done to the regions. It is professional sport and everyone can see the finances of our sides need to improve.
"I don't know if it has echoes of our rebel season of 1998-99 but I will say we did enjoy that year, on and off the field, and I think our supporters did as well.
"In this instance, the regions obviously feel there is something better for them out there and they are going for it. Good on them."