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."
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-14 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).