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Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 19:42 UK

Regions retract criticism of WRU

WRU chief confident over future

Wales' rugby regions have retracted a statement questioning the validity of financial figures contained in the Welsh Rugby Union's annual report.

Regional Rugby Wales, representing the Ospreys, Blues, Scarlet and Dragons, appeared to dispute how the WRU had presented the funding for the regions.

But RRW has "apologised unreservedly" saying the release was not authorised.

Although talks continue, the two sides seem set for court over player release for the autumn Test with New Zealand.

The High Court hearing on 9 September will thrash out the WRU's claim on players to face the All Blacks on 7 November.

The Union has offered £100,000 to each region if they are prepared to release their players for the game at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which falls outside the International Rugby Board's agreed Test window.

On Wednesday, WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis had been hopeful of avoiding legal action, after announcing a £1m yearly profit and claiming more money than ever was going to the regions.

Lewis said that the four regions would share £12.1m between them from the WRU, up from the previous year's pot of £11.4m.

It was this figure and the way it had been presented by Lewis that was the subject of criticism in RRW's initial statement, although it later emerged that it had been released without the authority of its chief executive, Stuart Gallacher.

606: DEBATE

The retraction read: "In the press release, Regional Rugby Wales made a number of serious allegations against the WRU and Mr Lewis which it now accepts are wholly unfounded and which should never have been published.

"Regional Rugby Wales and Mr Gallacher apologise unreservedly to the Welsh Rugby Union and Roger Lewis for any offence and distress caused."

Despite almost two years of talks, the Union and the regions have so far failed to agree on a new participation agreement, a document which it was hoped would formalise the relationship between them.

The regions want more money per season from the governing body, arguing that it is vital to help them keep Wales' stars playing in Wales.

Lewis suggested in a WRU statement early on Tuesday that the sides were close to agreement.

"A priority is to develop a closer working relationship with our regions and the Principality Premiership clubs," said Lewis.

"We want to continue to invest more in regional rugby and we want to work with the regions to create the best environment for the game to flourish.

"There is a lot of hard work ahead but I am confident we are now in the right shape as a business to meet the challenges and take full advantage of all the opportunities we have identified in our five-year strategic plan for the future."

Although RRW's embarrassing retraction headed off the latest spat, there is still no indication from the regions' side to support the view of Lewis that a détente is imminent.

The WRU has already sold out the New Zealand Test at the 74,500-seat Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.



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see also
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WRU announces yearly 1m profit
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