The Premiership clubs meet on Friday to discuss whether to pull out of talks next week on how to save the Heineken Cup after they were not invited to a secret meeting by the tournament organisers this week.
The English and French clubs served notice last summer that they would be pulling out of the Heineken Cup when the present agreement runs out at the end of next season unless changes were made, but some on the tournament's organising body, European Rugby Cup Ltd, feel that the French are not as revolutionary as their Premiership counterparts.
The Top 14 clubs were invited to the meeting in Paris that was arranged by ERC. All the six unions involved in the Heineken Cup were there, including the Rugby Football Union, and concessions were offered to the French, including a requested earlier date in the season for the final.
"It was a flawed attempt to divide and rule and it failed," said Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby. "In the short term, the meeting was not helpful in finding a solution that meets most of the needs of all those involved in the two European tournaments.
"It may be that a period of reflection is needed and that, with the autumn internationals coming up, it may be a good idea to postpone the next meeting of the shareholders, which is planned for next Tuesday in Dublin. It is something I will be discussing with our clubs on Friday and I know from the calls I have received that they are very angry at what happened this week."
The unions proposed to the French clubs that the Heineken Cup be turned into a 32-team tournament involving the top 10 teams from the Premiership and Pro12 and the leading 12 in the Top 14. The Amlin Challenge Cup would cease to exist, leaving six teams without any fixtures on eight weekends of the season.
The proposal of the French and English clubs, which had been discussed at two shareholder meetings this season, was for a 20-team Heineken Cup, made up of the top six in the three leagues together with the tournament winners and the Challenge Cup holders, to be supplemented by a 20-strong Challenge Cup.
Both tournaments would be made up of five groups of four teams with the winners and the best three runners-up going into the quarter-finals. By shedding four sides from the Heineken Cup, the aim would be to strengthen the Challenge Cup, which at the group stage is a series of mismatches.
"The French clubs rejected the plan," McCafferty said. "In one sense, Wednesday's meeting might prove beneficial in that those who thought that the clubs in England and France were not united have been put right. That is why I think it would be a good idea to have some thinking time, but that will be something for the clubs to decide."
The RFU was represented in Paris by the chief executive Ian Ritchie and the professional rugby director, Rob Andrew. "We have no argument with the RFU," McCafferty said."They are not taking sides in this but trying to get an agreement."
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