THE Welsh Rugby Union has hailed the Six Nations' deal to sell a stake to private equity firm CVC as a "catalyst for the growth of the game".

The five-year agreement with Six Nations Rugby Ltd, subject to regulatory approval and thought to be worth around £365million, sees CVC increase its investment in rugby union after previous deals with the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14.

Organisers say the deal, which includes the autumn internationals, will generate investment in long-term projects to provide lasting benefits for the game.

WRU chief executive Steve Phillips said: "This is a pivotal moment in the history of the international game in Wales. Ultimately, this deal will be a catalyst for the growth of our game.

"It will directly improve the international tournaments we participate in, further engaging new and existing fans alike.

"Increased interest drives other opportunities both on and off the field. Indirectly the investment will in turn provide the foundations on which the whole game can flourish."

The unions of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will still have a 85.7 per cent stake between them and retain sole responsibility for all sporting matters as well as the majority control of commercial decisions.

WRU chairman Robert Butcher stressed that the governing body can't afford to waste the cash injection.

“This is an exciting day, but the hard work starts here at both Six Nations and on a domestic front in Wales,” said the Bargoed stalwart.

“Our responsibility is to the future of the professional game in Wales and to sustainability and development at community level.

“We need to make this money work hard for Welsh rugby in the long term.

“We now have the opportunity to advance and develop our game once we come through the current crisis, to secure its future and enter a new era for rugby.

“If the recent challenges faced across the sporting landscape teach us anything, it is that diversifying our income beyond the traditional stadium income model is vital.”