Welsh rugby is 'dying on its feet', warns ex-Wales star Emyr Lewis

Welsh regional rugby supporters protest against the WRU before a Pro12 game

Ex-Wales back-row Emyr Lewis says things must change if the domestic game in Wales is to be rescued.

The 41-times capped flanker has called on the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions to put aside their differences and find a solution together.

"At the moment rugby is dying on its feet in Wales," Lewis said.

A deadline for a new deal between the WRU and the Welsh regions expires on Tuesday, amid a bitter dispute between the parties.

Emyr Lewis
Emyr Lewis was capped 41 times for Wales and later became a regular in the commentary box

"Forget about the politics, forget about the power struggles between both parties," Lewis added.

The WRU set the 31 December deadline for the four regional sides to sign a new participation agreement, which would replace the current five-year deal that expires in June 2014.

But BBC Wales Sport understands that Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets will not sign as they believe the funding in the new deal falls short for their needs.

Meanwhile the regions' supporters have accused the WRU of being unnecessarily rigid in setting the end-of-year deadline.

An exodus of top Welsh players to higher-paying clubs in England and France has formed the backdrop to the dispute over who controls the professional game in Wales and the money generated by it.

That has raised the spectre of the regions splitting from the governing body, possibly to join a new Anglo-Welsh competition with the top clubs from England.

But the WRU have a legally binding obligation to enter four Welsh teams into the Pro12 and Heineken Cup competitions next season and without the regions they would have to develop four new sides capable of competing in these tournaments.

"Both parties should come together, thrash it out and make sure that the decision they make is for the benefit of Welsh rugby and regional rugby as a whole," Lewis commented.

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"Sit down and look at everything, what is the best for... the supporters because they are very important in this, they are the ones who come and spend their hard-earned money every weekend.

"The supporters are not coming because they're not happy with the standard of play and the competitions that we are playing in."

While Lewis would like to see an end to the strife between the WRU and the regions, the 45-year-old believes an Anglo-Welsh competition is an attractive option.

Lewis was playing for Cardiff when they and Swansea rebelled against the WRU and played a series of friendlies against English sides in the 1998-99 season.

"I was involved in the situation... when Cardiff and Swansea went over to play in England and we thoroughly enjoyed it," Lewis said.

"It was the cross-border competition and the supporters supported it very, very well and I think that is the way forward.

"The only problem then is that Wales as a nation would be quite selfish, because Ireland and Scotland are going to be left in the lurch.

"We've got to be very careful, we've got to discuss it with all four or five nations that are involved in this because it is going to have a massive impact on rugby in Europe."

It has been reported that Premier Rugby Limited, which represents the top-flight English clubs, and its broadcast partner BT Sport have offered each region £4m a season to compete in an Anglo-Welsh competition.

The uncertainty surrounding with French Top 14 and English Premiership Rugby clubs threatening to withdraw from it in favour of a new cross-border competition, has caused further uncertainty for the Welsh regions and affected their ability to make concrete financial plans.

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