[icWales] WELSH rugby was last night left with seven days to decide its future following one of the most momentous 24-hour periods in the game's history.
At the umpteenth time of asking, Welsh Rugby Union chief executive David Moffett finally dragged a solid, near-unanimous proposal out of the nation's premier clubs.
Seven of them - Llanelli, Swansea, Bridgend, Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale, Newport and Cardiff - told Moffett they could at last do a deal that would see the nation's top flight reduced from nine to five teams.
That is one more than the four provinces Moffett has proposed.
The two options - Moffett's four-provinces plan and the clubs' new five-team proposal - will go before the WRU's general committee for further discussion next Thursday.
One of the schemes will then be chosen and definitively put forward for a vote at a special EGM of Wales' clubs.
If approved that will be the way forward for the Welsh game next season. The WRU chief made the announcement about the two different options after a three-hour WRU general committee meeting in the Millennium Stadium last night .
That meeting itself followed a day of separate earlier mammoth talks between Moffett, WRU colleague Glanmor Griffiths and club owners and representatives.
Moffett, whose four-team plan was discussed by the WRU last night, could not give a label to clubs' proposed teams, describing them as "en-tities".
Under that new plan, Llanelli and Cardiff would effectively stand alone, Pontypridd would combine with Bridgend, Neath with Swansea and Newport with Ebbw Vale.
But Moffett said far more detail is needed before the matter is formally put on the table next week.
Moffett said, "It was interesting that when we broke up around lunchtime there was an environment in which the clubs had been unable to reach agreement.
"I think there was a view expressed by us that that wasn't good enough and that as the leaders of Welsh rugby we should be able to come up with a sensible way forward to which everyone agreed. The clubs subsequently continued to meet and
then came back to us. I think from their point of view it has been a major breakthrough in that they have actually been able to agree something for the first time. I'm sure they would say that too. I think it is testament to the fact that we need to take the game forward in Wales and that we need to do that together.
"We are in a position where we have some options. Finances are an issue I am going to have to look at in
respect of the five-team option. Up until Thursday afternoon, the clubs had not come back to us with a proposal of their own.
"They have done so and it is inherent on us to consider that, but we need a lot more information on it so we can place it before the general committee next Thursday."
Moffett added, "For the very first time the clubs came back to us with a unanimous view they had about the way forward, which involved five teams. I say for the first time because I am not aware that previously they had been able to agree among themselves a way forward. We have consistently said that we would be prepared to listen to another option should they be able to put one to us.
"That was put to us on Thursday on very broad terms before we met the general committee. We were unable to have a full discussion about that with the general committee, even though we were able to give them an outline of what was being proposed.
"We will meet the committee again next Thursday when we will present two options - the first they were presented with on Thursday night and the second, the clubs' preferred option, which we obviously need to do a lot more work on.
"We will call an extraordinary general meeting of the WRU member clubs on February 23. So the clock is ticking and we have clearly put that line in the sand. By this time next week we will be making a re-commendation to the committee in respect of professional rugby. That will then be taken to the EGM."