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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Second tier 'could enter Europe'
Heineken Cup
English second division teams could be entered in next season's Heineken Cup, Rugby Football Union chairman Martyn Thomas has said.

The competition's future is in doubt after English and French teams voted to boycott it next season.

"If the Premier League clubs decide not to participate, we do have a second division," Thomas said.

"We will talk to these clubs. I will do all that I can do to ensure (the tournament) continues."

Earlier on Good Friday, Thomas and Leicester chairman Peter Tom said the Heineken Cup could go on next season.

The duo told BBC Sport they would be prepared to meet in order to try to resolve the situation.

The patience of both the rugby players and the rugby fans is wearing extremely thin

Damian Hopley
Players' union chief

"We remain available 24/7 to meet Premier Rugby and seek a solution. The Cup can be saved," said Thomas.

Tom agreed but added: "There would have to be meetings in a very short period of time in which all of the current issues can be agreed. I don't think we can continue in the way we have before with lots of different sets of talks.

"We need to be prepared to lock ourselves in a room for 24 hours to sort it out."

Premier Rugby Limited said English teams were pulling out over an alleged change of heart by the Rugby Football Union over giving clubs a stake in the tournament.

The RFU replied by saying the clubs were in clear breach of their outstanding legal obligations.

"There are a lot of issues which we haven't resolved in 11 years but I believe we were very close to resolving them at our meeting in January," added Thomas.

The French clubs have indicated they would return to compete in the Heineken Cup after next season.

But Thomas is adamant they should only be allowed to return after compensating the Celtic clubs for any loss in revenue resulting from the collapse of the competition.

He added: "People have no right to walk in and out of competitions and I personally find it absolutely reprehensible and disgraceful."

606: DEBATE

Players' union chief Damian Hopley urged the two parties to find a resolution.

"It is time for both parties to take a leap of faith, get round the table and stop the public slanging matches," Hopley, the chief executive of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, said.

"The patience of both the rugby players and the rugby fans is wearing extremely thin.

"The PRA are offering to facilitate a meeting with both parties at a neutral venue in order to agree a workable solution.

SEE ALSO
English teams will boycott Europe
05 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Clubs warned over 'suicide' move
05 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
RFU hopes to avoid legal action
04 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
English clubs back Euro boycott
02 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
French clubs to quit Heineken Cup
17 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Richards blames RFU for boycott
03 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union


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