EDF Energy has agreed a three-year deal to sponsor the Anglo-Welsh Cup, so the competition will be renamed the EDF Energy Cup.
The EDF Energy Cup will be contested by the 12 Guinness Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions and 2006/07 will be the second season for this tournament which was won in its inaugural year by London Wasps.
Paul Vaughan, RFU Business Operations Director, said: We are delighted to have secured such a major commercial name as EDF Energy to be the sponsor for five competitions covering premier to grassroots rugby.
EDF Energy is closely involved with rugby already as the EDF Group is an Official Global Partner of Rugby World Cup 2007 and, in France, EDF is also a major partner of the French professional league (LNR). We are looking forward to a productive relationship over the next three years.
Vincent de Rivaz, Chief Executive of EDF Energy said: Our partnership with the RFU and Premier Rugby will help us build on the brand awareness generated by our successful sponsorship of the ITV World Cup coverage. It also enables a connection with almost 2,000 amateur rugby clubs which are at the heart of their communities. For us this grass roots dimension is a vital part of developing our business and the relationship we want to have with our customers, our employees and the communities in which we live and work.
EDF has a long relationship with rugby in France and I am delighted to extend this to the UK. We are all passionate about sport and with our new partners we will work hard to help ensure rugby continues to be a force for good in England and Wales as well as the source of great pleasure for all who play and watch it.
Jon Varney, Commercial Director of Premier Rugby Ltd, added: The tournament was a great success last season, with over a quarter of a million people watching the matches live, and we are excited to have EDF Energy as the new sponsor.
Attendances at the group stage showed a twelve per cent increase on the previous year and this season many of our clubs have added the matches to their season tickets, so I would expect another marked increase. Add to that number the millions who will watch the matches live on BBC Television and S4C and you have a fantastic tournament.
When we start the group stage in September there will be no shortage of clubs desperately keen to win the EDF Energy Cup.
EDF Energy was represented in this deal by its Head of Brand, Louise Poole, and Keith Impey, CEO of Sponsorship Media. Three rounds of matches will be played in the four-team group stages at club grounds before a double header semi-final at a venue to be confirmed on March 24th 2007 and the final at Twickenham on Sunday April 15th.
London Wasps will kick off their Cup defence at Cardiff Blues - a team they beat 40-19 in the pool stages at the Causeway Stadium last October.
Wasps and the Blues are again in Group B along with London Irish and Saracens, while newly-promoted NEC Harlequins take over from relegated Leeds Tykes in Group C.
The BBC will televise at least three matches from the group stages on network, plus both semis and the final, with further group matches being shown live on BBC Wales and S4C.
Terry Burwell, Tournament Director, said: The inaugural competition was a great advert for the game as showed by the live crowds and television audiences and we are looking forward to three successful years with EDF Energy.
The groups have been kept the same to aid teams geographically and so they can benefit from home games against clubs they had to travel to last year.
The semi-final double header at the Millennium Stadium, followed by the final at Twickenham, were two fantastic occasions and Im sure that this season will be equally successful.
WRU Chief Executive Steven Lewis said: Last seasons inaugural tournament brought some hugely competitive and enthralling rugby to our club and regional grounds and television screens.
It was great to see the Scarlets representing the Welsh Regions at the semi-finals and final of the competition. The challenge for us now is to be even more competitive and for more Welsh regions to be challenging for the EDF Energy Cup.
Round 1: September 29-October 1
Bristol Rugby v Bath Rugby, 15.00, Sunday Oct 1st
Ospreys v Gloucester Rugby, 19.10, Friday Sept 29th BBC Wales
London Irish v Saracens, 15.00, Saturday Sept 30th
Cardiff Blues v London Wasps, 14.30, Saturday Sept 30th BBC Network,
Llanelli Scarlets v NEC Harlequins, 16.10, Sunday Oct 1st BBC Wales
Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons, 19.45, Friday Sept 29th
Leicester Tigers v Newport Gwent Dragons, 17.30, Saturday Sept 30th, S4C Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors, 13.30, Saturday Sept 30th
Round 2: October 6-8
Bath Rugby v Ospreys, 14.30, Saturday Oct 7th, BBC Network,
Gloucester Rugby v Bristol Rugby, 15.00, Saturday Oct 7th
London Wasps v London Irish, 15.00, Sunday Oct 8th
Saracens v Cardiff Blues, 16.10, Sunday Oct 8th S4C
NEC Harlequins v Sale Sharks, 15.00, Saturday Oct 7th
Newcastle Falcons v Llanelli Scarlets, 19.40, Friday Oct 6th , BBC Wales,
Newport Gwent Dragons v Northampton Saints, 17.30, Saturday Oct 7th , S4C, Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers, 15.00, Saturday Oct 7th
Round 3: December 1-3
(Televised games tbc)
Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby, 15.00, Saturday Dec 2nd
Ospreys v Bristol Rugby, 19.30, Friday Dec 1st
Cardiff Blues v London Irish, 19.15, Friday Dec 1st
Saracens v London Wasps, 15.00, Sunday Dec 3rd
Newcastle Falcons v NEC Harlequins, 20.00, Friday Dec 1st
Sale Sharks v Llanelli Scarlets, 19.45, Friday Dec 1st
Worcester Warriors v Newport Gwent Dragons, 15.00, Saturday Dec 2nd
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers, 15.00, Saturday Dec 2nd
EDF Energy Cup Semi-finals: Saturday March 24 2007 (venue to be confirmed), Kick-off 14.30 & 17.15, BBC Network
EDF Energy Cup Final: Sunday April 15 2007 (Twickenham Stadium), 14.30, BBC Network