RRW, the umbrella body of Wales' four rugby Regions, today confirmed that a court date has been set for a full trial to determine whether the WRU has the right to force the regions to release players for the additional fixture against the All Blacks
in November. RRW maintains the fixture, which sits outside of the IRB's official release window, requires their express agreement, which has not been given. This stems from the regions' frustration with the "total breakdown" in talks with the WRU over a revised participation agreement and the WRU's refusal to enter into formalised partnership with RRW to run the professional game in Wales similar to that of both England and France .
Within the last few weeks, RRW successfully obtained the High Court's agreement that the game could not take place before the matter was determined in court, the date for which has now been set for the 9th, 10th and 11th of September. The move by RRW also prevents the WRU from obtaining an interim injunction which the Union obtained last year to force the release of players for additional training.
This week, the WRU announced that it had guaranteed a fee of £1m to the All Blacks, regardless of whether or not the game went ahead. This resulted in a statement from RRW which branded the move by the Union as a "folly" and stated that the WRU was "ill-advised" to enter into discussions with New Zealand at all, before RRW's agreement had been secured. RRW also points to this as the latest example of the "contemptuous" way it is treated by the WRU and further evidence of the "master and slave" relationship between the two.
Speaking today, RRW chief executive Stuart Gallacher said:
"The WRU agreed a fixture against the All Blacks without our agreement and then invited us to take them to court of we didn't like it. That's what we've done. The court date has been set and we look forward to achieving in court what we have been unable to achieve with the WRU for almost two years - certainty. We need a revised participation agreement and hopefully this court case, as undesirable as it is, may be the spur to finally achieving a proper outcome for Welsh rugby.
"At some point the Union has to come to the table and recognise Regional Rugby Wales and embrace a partnership that can be a powerful enabler for the future of the professional game in Wales. We are already trailing behind the likes of England and France, who have put their squabbles behind them and joined forces for the good of the game. We want nothing more and nothing less for Welsh rugby. It's just a tragedy that it has taken this long to get next to nowhere, as this whole issue should have been resolved months, if not years ago. For whatever reason, the WRU's executive still seems to consider genuine partnership an alien concept, when the rest of the world has embraced it as the gateway to achieving combined and greater success."