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."
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
Speaking to the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Tongan international forward Sione Kalamafoni returns after injury to take up his usual place in the back row as Gloucester look to finish their season on a high against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday.
Gloucester Rugby is delighted to confirm that 18 year old Mat Protheroe, a product of Hartpury College and one of the brightest young talents in the English game, has signed a senior contract at Kingsholm.