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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Pickering defends Anglo-Welsh Cup
Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering
Welsh representatives face a showdown with Irish and Scottish counterparts on Tuesday over Anglo-Welsh Cup plans.

All three Celtic League partners will meet at Heathrow, with the Irish and Scots unhappy at the Welsh stance.

The plan sees the four Welsh regions entering a revamped Powergen Cup alongside the top 12 English teams.

"Our objectives are to compete in the Celtic League, but we also want to compete in the Powergen," said Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering.

"I think everyone is aware of our stance. We've got a duty to ensure our regions survive financially.

"The Welsh regions need this high-intensity competition, they need regular meaningful games and that's what we will aim to achieve."

The new-look Powergen Cup would involve the Ospreys, Llanelli Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons alongside the 12 English Zurich Premiership - soon to become the Guinness Premiership - clubs.

A group stage of four pools of four teams guarantees each side three matches and a 200,000 share of a reported 7m pot, with the four pool winners advancing to the semi-finals.

The knock-out stage will begin in March, with a double-header mooted for the Millennium Stadium, with the final at Twickenham the following month.

PROPOSED POOLS
Pool 1: Bath, Bristol, Gloucester, Ospreys
Pool 2: Blues, Leeds, Newcastle, Sale
Pool 3: Dragons, Leicester, Northampton, Worcester
Pool 4: London Irish, Scarlets, Saracens, Wasps

The venue for the final will then alternate between London and Cardiff.

The dates for the pool stage of the tournament have been pencilled in for October and December, with an agreement possible as early as next week.

But first the Welsh must defend their corner against the Irish and Scots, from whose camps have emanated threats to throw the Welsh out of the Celtic League, replacing them with Italian sides.

Italian teams may yet be invited to join the Celtic League, but that is unlikely to be at the expense of the four Welsh regions despite the posturing.

The proposed pools have been assembled along loose English geographical lines, with the Ospreys having the pick of the crop.

The Celtic League champions get the choice placement in the south-west pool alongside 'local' rivals Bath, Gloucester and newly-promoted Bristol.

Cardiff Blues have the longest trips to face Newcastle, Sale and Leeds, the Scarlets have regular journeys down the M4 against Wasps, Saracens and London Irish, while the Dragons play Leicester, Northampton and Worcester.




SEE ALSO
Anglo-Welsh Cup set for go-ahead
27 May 05 |  Rugby Union
Jordan welcomes new cup concept
11 May 05 |  Rugby Union
Celtic nations in new Rainbow Cup
10 May 05 |  Rugby Union


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