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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 16:18 GMT
Moffett scraps northern expansion
Llanelli are reluctant to combine with arch-rivals Swansea
Llanelli and Swansea have rarely seen eye-to-eye
Wales could have four new provincial sides by next year - but the plan for a north Wales-based team has been dropped.

WRU chief executive David Moffett's plans for provincial rugby came a step closer after the Premier clubs missed Wednesday's deadline to produce an alternative structure.

But Moffett showed he is open to compromise after shelving his plan to promote rugby in north Wales, which would probably have sited a provincial team in Wrexham.

The Welsh Rugby Union has downgraded the north Wales plans to development status, instead returning to four sides from the south that will represent Wales in European and Celtic competition.

In return, the Premier clubs are now mostly supporting four teams rather than five - with a 2 million budget for each being suggested by the WRU.

But after meeting on Wednesday and then talking to Moffett, the leading backers still could not agree a united plan of combinations and another meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday.

"We're in a process at the moment and it is ongoing," Moffett said.

"There have been productive and cordial discussions today - and we have more tabled."

Although Neath had already allied themselves with Bridgend, and Newport with Ebbw Vale, the other clubs have not found common ground.

If the Premier clubs cannot produce their own blueprint for the future of the game, they face having to follow Moffett's lead.

Should Moffett's proposals be put to the vote at an Emergency General Meeting, it is likely that the majority of the Welsh Rugby Union's members would support him, and not the Premier clubs.

If the provincial path is followed, the individual clubs will continue to play as themselves in a domestic league, possibly expanded to include the leading Division One clubs such as Pontypool and Aberavon.

Within Moffett's modified provincial proposal, Neath-Bridgend and Newport-Ebbw Vale get the rubber stamp to merge.

The third team suggestion combines Llanelli and Swansea, with Cardiff, Pontypridd and Caerphilly providing a fourth.

Although Llanelli are unhappy at having to merge with anybody, the Scarlets are vehemently opposed to combining with arch-rivals Swansea.

Llanelli are arguing that their record and catchment area qualify them to stand alone.

Pontypridd are equally reluctant to jump into bed with Cardiff and would prefer a link with Bridgend instead.

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