Belfast Telegraph

Heineken Cup: Semi-final rivals on course for European jackpot

By Graham Luney

Ulster and Edinburgh are both in line for a cash bonanza after their Heineken Cup heroics.

Already guaranteed £362,000 for reaching the knock-out stages, the thrilling win over Munster at Thomond Park will keep the riches coming to Ravenhill.

That figure should double when Ulster and Edinburgh square up in the last four at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, April 28.

Both sides will be rubbing their hands with glee, knowing shared gate receipts from the semi-final showdown are on their way.

Edinburgh can also relay the good news to their bank manager in the wake of Saturday’s 19-14 quarter-final win over Toulouse at Murrayfield.

While money is no guarantee of success in any sport, the extra spending power will give the semi-finalists more opportunities to bolster their squads for future European campaigns. And Edinburgh’s progress to the final four stage could help cement Scottish participation in the tournament ahead of a re-negotiation of entry qualification in 2014.

It is thought some English and French clubs are set to query why teams in the RaboDirect PRO12 League gain automatic entry to the Heineken Cup, whereas their involvement is based on domestic league position.

The Scots received glowing praise from Derek McGrath, the former Ireland flanker, who is now chief executive of European Rugby. McGrath said: “What was really exciting and so satisfying was to see the way in which Edinburgh set out a target and achieved that target, the way they approached the game and the way the crowd got involved.

“The scenes at the very end we have seen before but we have never seen them at Murrayfield and never seen them involving a Scottish team.

“That is a step forward for European rugby and not just Scottish rugby. I know this means a lot for Scottish rugby and Edinburgh fans because they now see what success can do as payback for everybody.”

McGrath added: “What we have seen is something special. We (ERC) could not be happier. In the end it was a game Edinburgh decided they were going to win.”

Meanwhile, Munster coach Tony McGahan thinks Ulster could go all the way and win the tournament.

McGahan was full of praise for the tenacious defence that sealed victory for the away side.

“They are an exceptional side and their defence was superb, the way they scrambled, the way they defended. It was a complete package,” he said. “There is absolutely no doubt they have the capabilities of being a Heineken Cup winning side.”

McGahan added: “They have a mature side, an all-round side, and I thought their defence was just outstanding. They made the quarter-finals last year and progressed again to the make the semi-finals.

“They have a tough nut to crack in Edinburgh but certainly, if you look at their form over the whole season, they have all the capabilities of being a Heineken Cup winning side.”

Belfast Telegraph


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