Premiership Rugby, the organising body of English club rugby union’s top division, has announced it will launch a new knockout competition next season to replace the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
The Premiership Rugby Cup will feature the 12 Premiership teams, bringing an end to the involvement of four Welsh regions after 13 years.
In response, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has said it plans to now focus on developing young players with a dedicated under-23 competition.
The new tournament will comprise three pools of four teams, with two sets of game rounds starting in October and ending in January. One of the second set of rounds will see derby day clashes between rival clubs before the cup moves into the knockout phase, with the three pool winners and the best runner-up moving into the semi-finals.
More than £500,000 (US$674,000) in prize money will be available to the teams.
“The cup has been a highly successful competition in recent years in helping develop the best new Premiership and England players, in front of big crowds and TV audiences,” said Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premiership Rugby.
“More than 1.3 million fans watched live coverage of the cup on BT Sport this season – a 37-per-cent increase year on year. We are sad that our friends in the Welsh Regions will not be involved next season but we have been discussing for some time that they need to move a new structure, prioritising an under-23 format.”
A Pro Rugby Wales spokesperson added: “The review of development structures and processes we have undertaken together with the Welsh Rugby Union over the last 12 months has clearly illustrated the need for us to focus on 18 to 23-year-old player development through a dedicated under-23 competition, which unfortunately means we will no longer have the resources to be able to compete in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.”