Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Italy's Magners chances take a knock

The two Italian teams set to join the Magners League next season could be put on ice as the franchises are struggling to meet the criteria.

Financial and political issues are hampering progress, with a report and decision on progress expected in two weeks' time, according to the Irish Independent.

The internal political issues revolve around the relative strength of the teams, who would be severely weakened by international call-ups during the November Test window and Six Nations.

Then there are financial problems, with an entry fee of EUR 3m being demanded as a joint entry fee to cover the cost of expanding the league and the other teams' admin and away games, and a TV money contribution of EUR 1.2m set as a minimum requirement.

The two franchises might use the Heineken Cup as a fall-back option, but ERC are not likely to accept entry from teams who are not yet organised by the February 3 deadline.

The impetus for including Italy in the first place comes from the IRB who want to see a more competitive Italy on the international stage, with club rugby needing a boost in order to get that far.

But as it stands, the Italian teams would not necessarily raise the standard, particularly with more games then scheduled to be played inside the Test window, which would dilute the quality of the teams on show further.

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