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Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Italians may join Magners League

Sergio Parisse
Sergio Parisse is blocked during Italy's November defeat to Pacific Islands

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis says Magners League bosses are looking "favourably" at the idea of Italian teams entering the competition.

Italy's bosses meet on 19 December to discuss their recent defeats to Pacific Islands, Australia and Argentina.

"At a Magners League board meeting last week... the possibility of developing a relationship with Italian teams was discussed," said Lewis.

"We agreed to positively explore the financial and rugby implications."

Italy's domestic championship, the Super 10, includes the likes of Viadana, Treviso and Calvisano, but Italian clubs have struggled to make much of an impact on the Heinken Cup.

"The WRU is committed to developing the Magners League to ensure its commercial viability as well as making the rugby even more compelling and engaging for the fans," added Lewis, who attended the meeting with the Welsh regions representative, Cardiff Blues chief executive Robert Norster.

"Play-offs will be introduced next season and the WRU continues to explore with Ireland and Scotland the possibility of the Magners League being even more closely linked to the Heineken Cup qualifying process."

Magners League chief executive David Jordan said: "As far as we're concerned there's a willingness to look at the possibility. However, we would need to see some firm proposals from Italy.

"There are a lot of issues we need to look at - the impact on the fixture list, the commercial impact also and the commercial and financial factors that need to be fully understood.

"Until we hear something formal from them in terms of a formal proposition then the Celtic rugby board isn't really in a position to look at it.

"There's a limit to how many teams we could introduce into our fixture list and accommodate that practically."

Joe Rokocoko
Joe Rokocoko says Italy's players would improve in the Magners League
Jordan added: "We have to assess the merits of that proposal in terms of competitiveness, commercial factors, the impact on fixture lists etc.

"Strategically it's important all the Six Nations' standards of rugby increase because that's really how we want the game to go forward.

"From a strategic point of view, if having teams and playing at a higher level in Italy will enhance the international game then that's something we need to consider."

On an All Blacks post-Grand Slam tour to Milan, New Zealand wing Joe Rokocoko backed the idea of Italy forming a super club to play in the Magners League and Heineken Cup.

Rokocoko told Reuters: "That's awesome, I'm sure supporters in Italy would get behind the team and players in Italy would work hard to get in that team and it will make them better in the end."

Italy have won two of 10 Tests since the 2007 World Cup, beating Scotland 23-20 in the Six Nations and Argentina 13-12 on their June tour with their defeats including games against England, France, Ireland and South Africa.

Italian officials meet on 19 December in Bologna to discuss a way forward for their club game.

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see also
Magners Celtic League team guide
11 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
Magners set to bring in play-offs
11 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Bennett critical of league set-up
08 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union

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