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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK

Sport: Rugby Union

Rebel Welsh clubs back in fold

Swansea will renew their Welsh rivalries next season after resolving the dispute

Welsh rugby has at last healed its bitter internal rifts, with the news that rebel sides Cardiff and Swansea are to return to the Premier Division next season.

BBC Rugby Correspondent Alistair Hignall: "The problems started when the game first went professional"
The two clubs played a series of friendly games against English Premiership sides last season after pulling out of the Welsh National League in a power struggle with the sport's bosses.

But the breakaway has now been ended, with the clubs signing eight-year loyalty agreements with the Welsh Rugby Union.

In return for their commitment they will be rewarded with places in the European Cup - despite not qualifying via the usual league route.

They have been nominated by the WRU to go into European competition along with Llanelli, Pontypridd and Neath.

However, Ebbw Vale will withdraw from the European Cup to make way for the big two.

Amicable settlement

A statement from the WRU said the governing body was delighted that the disagreement "has been amicably settled and that Welsh rugby can again move forward on a united front".

The WRU added: "Both clubs will also be nominated by the WRU to European Rugby Cup Ltd, among the five Welsh clubs to compete in the 1999-2000 European Cup tournament.

"Under the formula for future representation in the European Cup it is vital Wales is represented by their strongest clubs next season in order to make every effort that Wales secure a maximum four-club representation in the 2000-01 tournament.

"All parties appreciate that in nominating Llanelli, Pontypridd, Swansea, Neath and Cardiff for the European Cup that Ebbw Vale will be disappointed.

"In order to compensate for that, Ebbw Vale, who will take part in the European Shield, will next season receive the same financial consideration as the five European Cup entrants."

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