Italian teams to remain in Celtic League

Italian Rugby teams have decided against pulling out of the Celtic League and agreed to remain in the Pro12 for the next four years.

There had been reports that amid all the uncertainty over the future of the European Cup and with leading Welsh clubs contemplating an alliance with their English Premiership counterparts, the Italians planned to have their leading clubs participating in a domestic only national championship.

But the Celtic League, which now acts as a ‘domestic’ tournament for top sides in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy, announced Thursday that the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) would become an equal partner in Celtic Rugby from July 1 and that two Italian teams would take part for the next four years.

However, an agreement ratifying this proposal has still to be signed by all four national unions involved.

A statement issued by Celtic Rugby on Thursday said: “A constructive meeting took place on Tuesday in London between FIR and the Celtic Rugby Unions (Scottish Rugby Union, Irish Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union).

“The meeting was successful and an agreement was reached for FIR to join Celtic Rugby as an equal partner from July 1st, 2014.

“The terms of participation of two Italian teams were agreed upon. Under the new agreement, FIR will ensure the participation of two Italian teams for the next four years in the competition which is currently known as the RaboDirect PRO12.

“The agreement between FIR, SRU, WRU and IRFU will be officially signed in due course.”

Last weekend Italian minnows Zebre completed a shock season-double over Cardiff Blues, their 15-10 victory prompting the resignation of Cardiff director of rugby Phil Davies.

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