ONE of the major talking points in rugby circles this week has been the decision by the RFU to cut funding to Greene King IPA Championship clubs by almost 50 per cent.

This came completely out of the blue and many chairmen claim to have been blind-sided by RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney's announcement, especially as, coming at the end of a four-year cycle, the clubs were hoping to obtain agreement to their funding with little or no tangible response from the RFU.

Having based some of their recruitment and financial strategy around the belief they would again receive £530,000, to now be left with £288,000 will leave a sizeable hole in their budgets.

It seems inevitable redundancies will have to be made and there is a high chance it could eventually lead to a semi-professional 'second-tier' tournament – meaning many have claimed this is Premiership ring-fencing in all but name.

Indeed, any team which does win the Championship will be competing against sides with a £7m budget along with two marquee players when they go up, making it harder and harder for any side to follow Exeter Chiefs' example and become a top-flight stalwart.

The decision has shocked the majority of the rugby community, especially as the RFU has overspent by millions of pounds on the East Stand club project, only to cut money to the clubs.

This will surely not help our game in the long run.

In more cheery news, the Six Nations returns in what could be a very interesting weekend – if England can beat Ireland and Wales do the same to France, it will certainly makes things exciting for the final two rounds, with anyone of these sides in with a chance to claim the title.

On the local scene, London Irish host Gloucester on the back of their brilliant Gallagher Premiership success at Harlequins, while it's a rest week elsewhere.

Last weekend, Rams' trip to Cinderford was postponed in National One, but my boys Reading produced a sensational and gutsy display to end Southern Counties North table-toppers Witney's unbeaten record.

Sat second in the table, a play-off game with the runners-up of Southern Counties South looks a real possibility on the back of our 10-match winning run.

Lastly, a word to Reading Abbey, who eased their relegation fears with a key win at home to Wallingford.