Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Biting Back: English and French wrong to moan at Heineken Cup

Telegraph Sport: where the debate really gets started

Teams from England and France want to change the qualification process for the Heineken Cup

You know the rugby season is upon us when the English and French start moaning.

These conceited age-old protagonists agree on one thing; in their own eyes they are the northern hemisphere’s premier exponents of rugby.

In addition to their arrogance, they have something else in common — the fact that they never tire of listening to themselves.

Once again the Heineken Cup sees these would-be superpowers complaining and threatening withdrawal if their demands are not met. Their gripe? Too many Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italians — in other words PRO12 provinces, regions or franchises and not enough of England’s Aviva Premiership and France’s Top 14.

Four from Ireland, three from Wales and two from both Scotland and Italy is an imbalance when weighed against England’s six and France’s seven, they gurn.

Their objection is that all bar one of the PRO12 sides are included in the elite competition of European rugby while only 50% of England’s biggest clubs and 58% of France’s make it. Not a true reflection of European rugby’s balance of power, they sniff.

Ahem. In the past seven seasons, England have produced one set of champions — Wasps in 2007. Ditto France — Toulouse in 2010. Other than that it has been Irish provinces all the way, with Leinster winning three titles and Munster two.

Last year the PRO12 produced three of the four semi-finalists and both finalists. Since the English and French clearly cannot compete against that, perhaps they ought to start examining exactly why that is. Too many matches, perhaps?

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