Directors of rugby, head coaches and team managers from over 35 clubs from eight countries participating in the 2009/10 Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup will assemble for the annual ERC Clubs' Conference in Paris next week to debate some of the biggest issues facing the game as it approaches a new European campaign.
While the Top 14 season kicked-off last weekend, the season across the UK, Ireland and Italy doesn't start until next month, with the 15th European season getting underway in October
On the agenda at the two-day ERC club meeting in Paris, venue for the 15th Heineken Cup final in May next year, will be ERC's disciplinary procedures as well as a look at match officiating at European games with particular reference to the tackle area and recent IRB protocols re the maul.
Among the keynote speakers will be national referee managers Ed Morrison (England), Owen Doyle (Ireland) and Joel Dume (France), ERC's new Match Official Performance Manager Donal Courtney as well as Professor Lorne D Crerar, Chairman of the ERC Disciplinary Panel, and HHJ Jeff Blackett.
"When planning our annual pre-season club conference we felt that it would be particularly valuable to place the emphasis on Refereeing and Disciplinary matters as ERC continues to work with the clubs to develop, protect and enhance the profile and reputation of the European club game," said ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath
"While recent disciplinary cases bring to mind the challenges facing our tournaments and the game of rugby in the professional environment, we look to this forum to further enhance the understanding and value of a determined commitment to nurturing and building our two great European tournaments.
"I'm sure there will be questions raised on the recent issues and the event offers an important opportunity for coaches and referees in particular to achieve a better understanding of the regulations and disciplinary procedures in advance of the new season.
"There has been a particularly positive response from the clubs to the agenda and we are delighted that we will have so many of the Head Coaches and Team Managers at this year's event as well as representatives from the Board of ERC, the Leagues and Unions.
"The feedback we get as a governing body and the dialogue between the clubs, the referees and disciplinary personnel will be invaluable."
Among the attendees will be the director of rugby from three-times winners Toulouse, Guy Noves, the directors of rugby from the Ospreys, Scott Johnson, Ulster, David Humphreys, Brive, Laurent Seigne and Northampton Saints, Jim Mallender, Bath head coach Steve Meehan and Cardiff Blues head coach Dai Young.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.