EDF ENERGY has agreed a three-year deal with the Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby Ltd to sponsor the Anglo-Welsh Cup. The competition will be called the EDF Energy Cup.
Gloucester will begin the competition away to the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Friday, September 29 at 7.10pm and will follow that with home games against Bristol and Bath.
They will face Bristol on Saturday, October 7 at 3pm in round two and complete the pool stages against Bath on Saturday, December 2 and 3pm.
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.
In addition, EDF Energy will be the title sponsor for the four English club tournaments - the National Trophy, Intermediate Cup, Junior Vase and the new Senior Vase.
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."
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.
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."
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Willi Heinz thought that Gloucester had executed their game plan reasonably well and competed hard against Saracens. However, it wasn't enough but the squad will have plenty to work on this week ahead of the derby match against Bristol.
Having named an unchanged starting XV for the past three Aviva Premiership games, Gloucester Rugby ring the changes and retain only five players for Thursday's visit of Stade Rochelais in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 7:45pm).