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Regions row continues ahead of Six Nations launch

Tomorrow sees the launch of this year's Six Nations Rugby competition, but not for the first time in the Welsh game, off-field politics is overshadowing affairs on the pitch.

The Welsh Rugby Union remains locked in dispute with the four regional teams over funding, player control and competitions.

The regions have said that unless they can reach agreement with the union by this end of the month, they'll consider joining new tournaments without the WRU's approval.

Former WRU boss David Moffett wants to stand for election as union chairman, and claims that he could solve Welsh rugby's woes in just ten days.

"I've come back because I'm passionate about Welsh rugby. And in recent months I've seen what's happening here", he tells Richard Morgan.

"There is a toxic relationship between the union and the regions. They do not trust each other, they don't like each other, they don't respect each other. I believe I can change that."

Welsh players in Europe give their view on the regions row

One of the main sticking points in negotiations is the issue of player retention. Recent years have seen more and more Welsh internationals leave their regions to take up contracts with wealthy clubs abroad.

So would more money be the answer to keeping players here or are there other motivations? Our Sports Reporter Nick Hartley went to meet Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts in France to hear why they went, and how they feel better off out of the crisis.

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WRU to present regions with new agreement

The WRU says it is in the 'best interests of rugby' for a new agreement to be presented Credit: ITV News

The Welsh Rugby Union says it will present the four regions with a new agreement for professional rugby in Wales.

The WRU's board of directors met today and agreed it was in the best interests of rugby in Wales to present another agreement.

The WRU said: "The new agreement will further reflect the WRU's desire to ensure that Welsh player development and the retention of Welsh players is properly recognised. This is in the best interests of all of rugby in Wales, from the grass roots to the international level."

Officials from the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons met with the WRU in December over where the four regions should be playing and how to keep top players like Sam Warburton, who had threatened to leave Cardiff Blues to play abroad.

The four regions say they want to move away from the RaboDirect PRO12 League and join the English Premiership to form an Anglo-Welsh league.

The WRU want the regions to sign an agreement to stay in the PRO 12 and play in the Heineken Cup.

Rugby regions 'unable to commit' to WRU

Could Halfpenny be off to France as regions fail to agree conditions with WRU? Credit: PA

Regional Rugby Wales has released a statement this evening saying that the four Welsh Regions are "unable to commit" to extending the existing participation agreement with the WRU.

The current deal expires in June and the regions had until midnight tonight to renew the agreement.

The statement says: "A solution must be reached by the end of January 2014. Should this not be possible, the Regions will have no choice but to pursue further competition options immediately."

The news comes amid reports from France that Leigh Halfpenny is to sign for Toulon.

Officials from the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons met with the WRU earlier this month over where the four regions should be playing and how to keep top players like Sam Warburton, who had threatened to leave Cardiff Blues to play abroad.

The four regions say they want to move away from the RaboDirect PRO12 League and join the English Premiership to form an Anglo-Welsh league.

The WRU want the regions to sign an agreement to stay in the PRO 12 and play in the Heineken Cup.

Regions: Derbies will show strength of Welsh game

Regional Rugby Wales, which represents the four regions here, says a set of derbies over the festive period will demonstrate the strength of the Welsh game.

It has been in further talks with the WRU over Welsh rugby's future, particularly on the funding offered by the union to clubs.

Cardiff Blues host the Ospreys tonight, in the first of five Welsh derbies either side of Christmas.

We have a responsibility to the game in Wales and a duty to protect the game we love, our national sport.

It is great to see that so many supporters are behind us and supporting our commitment to work together to find a sustainable future for regional rugby.

This evening will demonstrate the coming together of support across our regions and is another example of the close relationship we have as four Welsh regions and the care and responsibility we and our supporters share in championing the best of Welsh regional rugby.

The festive derbies really are regional rugby at its best with some great rugby on show. They celebrate our position at the elite end of the community game in Wales, having so many local players on the field playing to such a high standard.

What's better than having five great games over two weeks to highlight the urgent need to 'Protect Our Game'.

The average Welsh derby attendance in 2012/13 was 11,666 – an increase from 10.200 the year before.

Ticket sales indicate that this year will see another increase – another great example of Welsh regional rugby at its very best.

– Stuart Gallacher, Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales

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WRU and regions fail to make deal

The WRU has released a statement on their website this evening after they failed to make a deal with the regions over the future of Welsh rugby.

Officials from the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons met with the WRU over where the four regions should be playing and how to stop top players like Sam Warburton, who has threatened to leave Cardiff Blues to play abroad.

The four regions say they want to move away from the RaboDirect PRO12 League and join the English Premiership to form an Anglo-Welsh league.

The WRU want the regions to sign an agreement to stay in the PRO 12 and play in the Heineken Cup.

It's understood further talks are planned.

At this key moment for rugby in Wales, the WRU continues to work hard in the best interests of Welsh rugby as a whole.

It would be unfair on the fans, the players and all of Welsh rugby to make any further speculative comment at this time.

However, the WRU remains hopeful that the Regions will decide to continue with the Participation Agreement by the deadline of 31st December 2013.

– Welsh Rugby Union

Wales to face world's top three in 2014 Autumn Series

Wales will face New Zealand, South Africa and Australia as part of the 2014 Autumn Internationals, it has been announced.

IRB's top three ranked sides will visit the Millennium Stadium along with Pacific Island nation Fiji.

The schedule will see the Springboks and the Wallabies return to Cardiff next year as part of Wales' preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The matches against New Zealand, Australia and Fiji will be part of the IRB autumn window, with South Africa confirmed as the fourth game.

WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said: "We have consistently said if you want to be the best, you have to play the best - and the 2014 autumn schedule reconfirms that commitment.

"Next year will be ideal preparation for the squad ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup."

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