Last week, the WRU Board of Directors voted to end the involvement of clubs from North Wales in the National League system outside their own area from season 2006/2007. Only two of the 18 WRU member clubs in the north, Llangefni and Ruthin, are currently involved in divisions that involve them in matches outside of their region.
The decision by the WRU Board means that as from 2006/2007 they will return to play in a restructured North Wales league system which will feed into a North Wales Regional XV. This team will play in the new, five team regional tournament that will start in November, 2005.
The purpose of the new regional tournament, which will also be contested by teams selected from Divisions 1-5 in the Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets regions, is to provide a stepping stone into the new Wales Amateur XV that the Board have also created.
"At present, the decision of the WRU Board is binding and all the clubs in North Wales will play within their region from the 2006/2007 season," explained Lewis. "While this move lies within the agreed policy of the Union's strategic plan, and is likely to be adopted in other parts of Wales in the future, it was obvious it was bound to cause concern.
"That's why we sent out Community Rugby Manager Phil John to meet with the North Wales clubs this week. He took soundings from them and, after useful debate, was able to come up with a plan that meets with the approval of the clubs.
"Phil and I will now fashion that plan to present to the WRU Board at their next meeting with a view to creating a pathway for clubs in North Wales to reach the Welsh Premiership in the future."
The idea is for the winners of the newly structured North Wales Division 1 to join the winners of Divisions 1 East and West, along with the bottom team in the Premiership, in a play-off for a place in the semi-professional league the following season.
"This will give the North Wales clubs the chance to pit themselves against the best amateur clubs in the rest of the country and potentially climb into the highest division," said Lewis. "They will be able to assess their strength on the field and measure their facilities off it, as they will also need to meet strict criteria to enter the Welsh Premiership should they be successful in the play-offs.
"They seem happy to take their chance and I will be recommending to the Board that they give them that opportunity."
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