talian job finally agreed as Azzurri sides join Magners League
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AND then there were 12 – finally. After all the behind the scenes squabbling over what could euphemistically be called “financial issues”, Celtic Rugby were able to confirm yesterday that next year’s Magners League will include two teams from Italy.
The 10th season of the tournament will see the league expanded to four nations as Italy joins Ireland, Scotland and Wales in a 12-team competition.
The SRU, IRFU and WRFU have agreed to the introduction of two new Italian super sides and the four-year agreement will see Benetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby competing against defending champions Munster and the other nine Celtic teams on a home and away basis.
Benetton Treviso will have their headquarters at Stadio Comunale di Monigo while Aironi, who will be based at Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, will involve various clubs from the Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna regions.
Aside from the additional travel costs, there are no downsides for Irish rugby, a point affirmed yesterday by IRFU chief executive Philip Browne: “The inclusion of the two Italian sides can only strengthen the competition into the future. Ultimately what is good for the Magners League will be good for European rugby and also for the international game by bringing Italian rugby into the competition.”
The move to embrace Italian sides comes at the end of a year-long review of the viability of expanding the tournament, the detailed analysis and due diligence undertaken by the sports consultancy arm of Deloittes and focusing on the basis of long-term financial capacity to support the teams and commit to the league.
Said David Jordan, Director of Celtic Rugby: “This is another massive step forward for the Magners League and follows the decision to go to a top-four play-off system to determine our champion team.
“As well as providing more fixtures for the teams already involved this will also bring both a major cash injection into the competition and greater exposure across Europe.
“The plays-offs and the Magners League Grand Final this season has already seen a marked improvement in the competitiveness of the league and the arrival of two Italian teams will provide another boost to the competition.
“By introducing Italy into the Celtic fold it will also dramatically broaden the appeal of our product. It is anticipated the Italian super clubs will be largely made up of Italian internationals of full, A and U20 levels, with a sprinkling of top overseas players to provide further extra strength and spice to the tournament.”
The clubs from which the Aironi team will be drawn will include Viadana, Parma, Gran Parma, Colorno, Vibu Noceto, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Mantova.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: “The inclusion of the two Italian sides for next season can only strengthen the competition into the future.
“The Magners League has grown year on year in attendances, viewership and standards and the news today continues this progression. Ultimately what is good for the Magners League will be good for European rugby.”
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