Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis today welcomed the notion that Italy could join Wales, Ireland and Scotland in the Magners League in season 2010/2011.
Lewis, responding to an official statement released by chairman of Celtic Rugby John Hussey, confirmed that Italy has been invited to supply two teams to the tournament on the proviso that a number of conditions can be satisfied.
"This is an exciting prospect for fans and players alike, but there are a number of issues to be resolved first," said Mr Lewis. "Who wouldn't look forward to a visit to Rome with say the Cardiff Blues for example or the chance to take in the sights in Venice with a team based in the North of Italy, the perfect place where the real rugby heartland is?
"But conditions will have to be met in terms of players, facilities, finances and from a commercial point of view and in terms of TV coverage. Italy are up for it and we will all give it our best shot, but we must ensure the idea is sustainable in both rugby and financial terms.
"We have asked some questions of Italy and will expect to have answers certainly by early December and the beginning of January, but we are not standing still and we are already talking to TV colleagues in Italy to make this work for everyone."
The statement issued by the Celtic Rugby Board this morning confirms 'it has advised the FIR that they have agreed in principle to invite two Italian teams to join the Magners League in season 2010/2011 subject to a number of conditions being met.'
The statement continues: 'These conditions, which will be clearly defined, fall under main headings of Playing and Facility standards, Finance and Commercial including Television. This will be a comprehensive process and will take some time. The Board therefore decided that participation could not commence before 2010/2011 season.
The Magners League is one of the top professional rugby union tournaments in the world. The quality of the Magners League is demonstrated by the fact that in the deciding Six Nations match between Wales and Ireland no less than 42 out of the 44 players that took part in that historic match play their rugby in the Magners League.
Four of this season's Heineken Cup quarterfinalists are Magners League teams. It is essential that any changes to the structure of this great competition maintain the highest standards.'
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