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 will field a reshuffled side against the Ospreys in the LV= Cup this weekend, but Backs & Attack Coach Nick Walshe stressed that it's a great opportunity for everyone on duty on Saturday and that maintaining the recent winning run is very important.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.