HEC Future: Myths versus Reality

The future of the Heineken Cup has been exercising us of late, as you know, and recent developments are pretty worrying from an Irish (and Celtic) perspective. Basically the English and French clubs are taking the ball away unless you play by their rules i.e. let them have more money. While we have some sympathy for the view that the qualification rules need reform, it seems obvious that is a smokescreen – and an ugly one at that.

The ERC i.e. those who stand to be cut out altogether, have resorted to putting out hand-wringing press releases begging the English and French to stop putting out press releases – it’s pathetic, and the state of affairs has been wrought by the flash cash of BT Sport turning the heads of Premier Rugby and their odious mouthpiece, McCafferty. In addition to threatening one of the best competitions in rugby to make a few extra quid, it’s given rise to the usual amount of hot air (from both camps). In a bid to find public sympathy with their grandstanding, both sides (although particularly the PRL) have been happy to put a number of myths out into the public domain, dressed up as facts.

Myth: Lack of relegation in the Pro12 gives the Celts an unfair advantage in Europe

Reality: The idea that Leicester and Toulon are busy scratching around to avoid relegation and, as a result, can’t give their all to Europe, is laughable. The English are French teams that compete in the HEC are largely the same every year, and this is down to them being the richest and having the biggest squads – every year the biggest teams aim to win domestically and go far in Europe. The two aren’t mutually exlusive, quite the opposite infact.

It’s worth acknowledging that the European success of Embra two years ago came at the cost of them lying down getting their bellies tickled week in week out at home. It was rather unedifying, and brought the automatic qualificaion of both Scottish franchises to the forefront – let’s hope it didn’t tip any balance.

Yes, the Irish provinces’ players enjoy a lighter workload and play fewer league games, but on the other hand, they are forbidden from padding out their squads with unlimited numbers of foreign players.  What’s given with one hand is taken away with the other.

Myth: The HEC will be improved as a product by having fewer teams

Reality: Dean Ryan said last week that the HEC lags miles behind the LV Cup in terms of match-day income for the teams. We find that impossible to believe – one is watched by over a hundred thousand fans* every week with every twist and turn, and the other by three men and a dog watching Gavin Henson’s latest comeback.

Like or loath Miles Harrison, Barnesy, Paul Wallace et al, there is no denying the quality of the Sky broadcast, and the colour of their money. Sky have pushed the HEC right to the top of their schedule, and invested their expertise in it – it’s great to watch and be involved in. Sure, less teams would mean less (not none – recall the fearful hammerings Toulon handed out to Sale last year) turkey shoots, but does that make it a better product? Maybe, maybe not.

Now let’s say the clubs get their way, and we end up with a 20 team contest with just two guaranteed Irish (one possible solution) – based on last season’s Pro12, Munster would be in the Amlin this year, or whatever it would become. Would that improve the HEC? Munster are an integral part of the HEC and have given a huge amount of drama to it over the years.  The idea that the tournament would somehow be more elite without their presence is so far the wrong side of ridiculous as to be comedic.  The English routinely fall over each other to praise the atmosphere in “Tomond” Park, and Saturday night games there, complete with mist, baying hordes, drooling Irish Times correspondents and away kicker nerves, are the epitome of mid-winter must-win pool games.

Myth: The Premiership clubs are all skint, and will sell their bodies to the highest bidder

Reality: The Premiership as a whole about breaks even – the clubs that make money are those that own their own stadia, and those that don’t, don’t. The likes of Leicester, Northampton, Gloucester and Exeter reap the benefits of non-match day incomes (and no rent) and can continually invest on the rugby side of the business. On the other hand, the likes of Bath and London Irish are permanently scratching out a perilous existence.

The Premiership clubs without stadia will use any extra cash from BT Sport for investment, benefitting the rugby community at large. Its a damn sight better than some Glazer-esque cowboy bleeding Sky’s millions into fees and offshore shell companies.

Myth: The French and English European qualification structures encourage conservative play, whereas the Celtalians can throw the ball around like confetti as it doesn’t really matter

Reality: This line of argument usually does along the lines of “Oh, that bosh-tastic 12-9 drop goal contest between Racing Metro and Biarritz was all down to fear of losing because they really, REALLY want to be in next years HEC and need to finish in the- top 6 to get there”. No, that was down to the monstrous packs and centres trying to run through each other all day.

Plus, it doesn’t hold for the Premiership – we’ve said it before, but we don’t buy the Celtic myth that the English league is a scrum-filled bosh fest. It’s actually quite good to watch, (and has bags more tries than the Pro12) and Leicester are among the most inventive teams in Europe these days. Sure, when Worcester and Newcastle grind out a 6-6 draw in February, you feel like tearing your eyes out, but is it any different for Dragons-Embra?

Myth: The English and French are happy to go it alone

Reality: For all the macho posturing of the PRL, it would seem to be a total non-runner – ditch the HEC for a slightly better version of the Anglo-Welsh Cup? Cancel my ticket. Do they really think the French clubs would buy into that wholeheartedly? Will Toulon play their firsts for that highly-anticipated Pool C clash in Exeter (other teams in pool: Bath and Perpignan – Ooooooooooh!!) or will they save them for a nice Mediterranean slug with Montpellier in the Top Quatorze the following week? Think we know the answer.  And what would the BT money-men make of it?  The IRFU may not appear to be in the strongest of bargaining positions, but they do have something to barter with: any future tournament needs the Irish provinces for the quality they provide.

Myth: It’s not about the money

Reality: It is

* not Saracens

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37 Comments

  1. Andy Lone

     /  September 17, 2013

    Typicalbenglish want to run everything there way and if they don’t they spit there dummy out,the english are making the northern hempisphere a laughing stock over this fiasco over the heineken cup look what they are doing with the refs in the premrugby it got so bad a wellrespected ref ed morrison left because of there interfering over the critism of refs they should be seperate enterty no the english want more money and aren’t bothered about anyone else just as long as they can control the competition to there own like abd no one except the premrugby have seen the bt deal and figures so everyone is scratching thete heads because figures mentioned don’t add up for the other unions.
    Premrugby are just walking over the blazers at the rfu

  2. Ireland's Answer (allthingsrugby1)

     /  September 17, 2013

    It should also be pointed out that the uncertainty around the future of the Heineken suits the French to the ground because it increases their chances of signing some high profile Irish players this year such O Brien, Murrary etc. At the end of the day the French championship is more important to them!

    Also the Saracens chairman saying the Welsh could join the Aviva prem is highly unlikely. Why would the English vote to automatically relegate themselves? But what it does do is weaken the Irish, Scottish and Italian hand as the Welsh seemed to have jumped at the idea and creates more instability.

    • That’s a good point, and one we will address later in the week. The Welsh want games with the English – that divide in the Celtic unions isn’t healthy.

      And the French really really want a Top16!!

      • Leinsterlion

         /  September 17, 2013

        I fail to see how a Wales-less pro 12 is a bad thing, replace their sides with Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Georgian and Portuguese National XV squads(+ obligatory mercenaries from SA, NZ and the Islands). We will get more, a more expansive and larger TV market to sell rights to added to the benefit of growing the game outside of the “commonwealth”, which in turn will lead to watchable pool games come WC time.

        • Leinster would get more fans for a game against Russia than the Ospreys?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 17, 2013

            A Russian National section taken from their league, littered with a few SANZAR players, would in time be a tougher proposition than the Ospreys, national sides always are(especially if they got big money backing for foreign signings).

            Russia is a far larger market than Wales it would make more commercial sense in the long run, rather then chasing after the broke WRU and underfunded Ospreys(soon to be shorn of their top players due to them losing money had over fist), if they want to join an expanded EP, let them.

            The potential for TV market growth (and sunny away weekend jaunts in Spain and Portugal ) is much bigger in Spain, Portugal, Russia combined than Wales, where the game is dying and running out of money and space to grow(at club level) with premiership football now dominating.

            In short the extra revenue from adding four TV markets would more than make up for the loss of the Ospreys et all in what is a second tier developmental competition anyway. I know its all highly unlikely, but a man can dream……….of booking a long weekend in Portugal to watch Leinster play, far more enticing than a ferry to Hollyhead.

          • Easy tiger: didn’t Ospreys just draw 29-29 in a cracking game at the RDS at the weekend? Are you telling me Russia would do the same? Ospreys have their problems, but they usually beat Leinster and have won two league finals in the last four years, both at the RDS. Not too shabby.

        • The Spanish couldn’t get it together to get a team into the Amlin. I also think they would seriously struggle against the likes of Leinster.

    • Welsh clubs have to give 3 years notice to exit the Rabo Pro 12 so this isn’t a runner – more a case of divide and conquer tactics

  3. donal

     /  September 17, 2013

    Myth: Top Irish players are rested on Pro12 weekends so they are better prepared for HEC.
    Reality: Top Irish players are rested because they have to play far more attritional games in 6N and there are only 4 teams to provide these players.

  4. To me it seems like the PRL has been lining up for this ever since they signed their BT Sport deal. It makes an awfully convenient excuse to flip one off to the ERC and Sky and has given them time to put things in place.

    It’s pretty hard to tell how much bargaining power each side has at this point. The Double Entente clubs have BT Sport behind them, but apparently not that of the Unions, who are backing the ERC, but if we end up with an Anglo-French Cup and the ERC pushes on with its program it basically means we have two Celtic leagues (plus the usual token Spanish club etc)

    It *does* make me worry a little when Roger Lewis is essentially our cheerleader in terms of negotiations, and from what I’ve seen the IRFU, SRU and FIR haven’t been making any noises.

    • Amiga500

       /  September 17, 2013

      Is BT Sport behind them?

      IMO McCafferty is desperate to get a new euro-comp as much of the BT Sport money may be dependent on them being able to show a new euro-comp.

      No euro-comp = no big bucks = many PRL clubs going to the wall.

      If that means the RFU can take things over and start to run all levels of the game as is best for rugby; then so be it.

  5. ruckinhell

     /  September 17, 2013

    The money is important but isn’t this really more a power play? The PRL have effectively said that they do not wish to play a club game organised by the Unions and this is a move to try and wrest control away from these same Unions. As much as we can wring our hands in the Celtic fringes this is very much a domestic dispute in England and France which has spilled over into the European context. The PRL and the RFU have had several public spats re access to players and more worringly the FFR and the LNR have been close to each others throats at times but the two Unions have effectively conceeded as much money as they can afford to the clubs and now the clubs are looking to have real control over their own destinies. The finances of the FFR in particular are not in good order and I’m really wondering why they are so quiet on this, this could potentially spell the end of them as an effective Union/

    The outcome of this is very important as I would hate to see a situation arise whereby the sugar daddies of France (and some of the English clubs) and the Premiership wideboys (Wray et al., no more plastic rugby marketing thanks) become the caller of the shots in European rugby. They are already talking about a change in rugby seasons, what is to stop them from deciding after a couple more years that the 6 Nations is old hat and that it should be replaced with another round of top notch clashes such as Brive vs. Newcastle as it may boost their collective revenue streams?

    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/sep/16/premiership-final-heineken-cup-trans-border

    Test rugby is the pinnacle for me and should remain as such. I think this is rather reminiscent of the Kerry Packer v SANZAR face off in 95 and I think the Unions should also respond with a sledgehammer to smash this on the head. There is a worrying lack of response from the RFU and the FFR on this, which makes me fearful.

    • contraflow

       /  September 17, 2013

      The power play of French and English clubs to rid themselves of the Unions is akin to the Premier League Soccer clubs breaking away from the FA with Sky TV money in the early 90s. It is the major factor in this hoopla and the English Soccer transformation in the 90s is the Franglais clubs wet dream and their hoped for road map for Euro rugby.

      There are a number of road-blocks for the Franglais clubs:

      1.Will their turkey Unions vote for Xmas and allow more power to the clubs at their own expense?
      2.Will IRB approve X-border comp and empower clubs at Unions expense thereby creating a new force in rugby at a pan-national level which they do not control?
      3.Do contracts signed with BT & PRL override contracts signed by ERC, Sky, and Heineken? Will this precipitate 2 yr legal battle where no euro comp can be played?

      Worrying outcomes for Ireland if Franglais clubs break away with their own comp:

      1.Wales happily ditch their Celtic brethren and rock into the BT cup and Pro12 remnants are forced to follow.
      2.All Pro12 stay out of BT cup but after 2 yrs are forced to join as it’s all that is on offer and funds are gone.
      3.RFU withdraws all funding for PRL clubs and says their players are not eligible for Eng selection; half of clubs go bankrupt; Prem as entity declared non-viable and is dissolved ; RFU introduces new league based on clubs being licenced by RFU or direct ownership of teams by RFU and provincial type league similar to Pro12 is setup; true pyramid structure now in place similar to all countries other than Eng and Fra current setup where players serve both club and country i.e. 2 master’s approach; Eng national team reaps rewards of pyramid structure and becomes number 1 world force in rugby as the full force of their player numbers advantage is brought to bear ; Ire never win another Grand Slam.

      Therefore, my biggest worry is, should the RFU realise this is their opportunity to regain complete control of Eng rugby. It would take a Machiavellian wolf in sheep’s clothing to emerge from the effete and dim-witted RFU membership i.e. not likely.

  6. abitofshoepie

     /  September 17, 2013

    The future of the Irish provincial game could well be decided by the success of Welsh soccer, not a healthy situation to be in! Rugby grounds over there are like ghost towns and there must be a bit of competitive pressure/envy when seeing how the public have got behind Swansea and Cardiff in the English soccerball league. Swansea seemed to have a sell-out last night for their home game with Liverpool – the fans even seemed to singing what I think of as traditional ‘rugby’ anthems – I can imagine Cardiff probably get bumper crowds as well. Entirely possible that they hit us with a double whammy by blinking first and weakening the Celtic hand in HEC negotiations based on the promise of getting future places in the Premiership, and hence a future hobbling of the Pro-12 as well.

  7. Len

     /  September 17, 2013

    Not sure if this is myth or not but from what I’ve read so far the setting up of a new competition between the English and French requires the sign off of both their respective Unions and the IRB. The Unions need to lay the law in what ever way they can or watch their national sides disintegrate. Has the IRB chipped in it two cent yet? Surely in a case like this they should if nothing else be acting as mediators. This situation could potentially have a very negative impact on the development of rugby in the NH. That must fall under their remit.

    • Jimbob

       /  September 17, 2013

      yeah, the ERC(I think) came out and said that but if you go into the guardian article posted by ruckinhell above, a senior club figure tries to dismiss that idea.
      I’m not sure what is legal but I can see the PRL throwing their toys out of the pram and going on strike or flat out refusing to sign a new agreement unless they get exactly what they want.
      From what I’ve read, it’s all PRL statements with the odd counter statement thrown in from the unions or ERC. As far as I can see, the LNR haven’t really spoken that much and might not be as dedicated to such extreme measures as the PRL. Only time will tell unfortunately.

  8. Good column, but aren’t you making the mistake of thinking that the people running Premiership rugby clubs are reasonable people? Killing the Heineken Cup is a classic case of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Yet the moral of that particular fable is that there are plenty out there quite happy to kill the goose. Standing on the outside looking in (despite being a proper native of Munster, it’s been a while since I took an interest in them or the HC), it looks like the perfect setup. Punters want excitement; groups where the final table is in doubt until all the games are played and blood-and-thunder knockout games. The HC seems to have the balance just right in that respect. But all the Premiership owners, titans of business that they are, can see are workshy peasants getting fat on THEIR MONEY!!!! They can’t see that giving a little leads to a lot. And even if they could, they wouldn’t care as long as they could get their hands on what they see as all of THEIR MONEY!!!!

    I can’t see how this is going to end well.

  9. Good piece again lads, and just illustrates how the reality is far more around control of the club game and now, finally this is coming to the fore.

    If PRL weren’t such egotistical pr!cks I’d actually support some of their proposals:

    1. Meritocracy for European competition – makes absolute sense
    2. Realignment of the rugby calendar – this is a personal opinion but I’d much prefer to see each respective competition played at different periods of the year (a la Southern Hemisphere) as I think it would give added focus to each competition. No more “resting” of players in league games for big HEC games. Plus you wouldn’t have the frankly farcical situation of Pro 12 games on the Friday of a 6 nations weekend.

  10. Keith

     /  September 17, 2013

    What about Mick Dawson coming out and saying that Leinster would look to play in whatever competition existed – not exactly rowing in behind the ERC

  11. ArtVandelay

     /  September 17, 2013

    What about:

    Myth: The English and French bring in more money.

    I can’t see how that is possible, on a per-club basis. I suspect the highest viewing figures will all include Irish sides. I can’t see something like Exeter-Scarlets getting even close. But, the PRL are pushing their “more chimney pots” stance without saying what the actual viewing figures (surely that is what BT are basing its money on) are. They’re basing it on the potential of the market and not the actual audience. The Irish teams are the draw and the English are trying to reap the benefit of it.

    • Michael Robinson

       /  September 17, 2013

      Viewing figures don’t matter that much to BT and Sky. Up to a point, they don’t really care if you watch or not as long as you pay your subscription. They get the vast majority of their money from subscribers rather than advertisers. I don’t know how broadcasters like Sky and BT attribute their subscribers to particular sports. Dedicated fans may subscribe just for rugby but I suspect a lot will primarily subscribe because of football, and will watch the occasional rugby game.

      I did check Sky UK viewing figures and games involving the Irish provinces did pull in larger audiences than teams like Saracens.

      • Amiga500

         /  September 17, 2013

        Erm… if Saracens were playing in the back garden ye’d close the curtains.

        So thats not exactly a shock ;-)

        If the provinces were drawing in more than the Tigers, then I’d sit up and notice.

        • Michael Robinson

           /  September 18, 2013

          It is difficult to do a valid comparison on Sky viewing figures as there have been so few knock-out appearances by English clubs in recent years…

          Viewing figures for subscription channels are small compared to terrestrial anyway. More people would watch the Pro12 on BBC NI or BBC Wales than watch HEC or AP games on Sky or BT.

  12. Xyz

     /  September 17, 2013

    “Myth: Lack of relegation in the Pro12 gives the Celts an unfair advantage in Europe”

    Lads, I’m more than sympathetic to the aim of this argument(and I’ve used it myself on more than one occassion) but honestly, this feels like a straw man. The point isn’t that Leicester and Toulon have to worry about relegation but that they have to play teams that do – teams that are therefore a bit hungrier than the bottom feeders of the Rabo in Jan/Feb/Mar.

    • Indeed, you are right here, I’m willing to give WoC a pass on this point though given they did attempt to dispel this ridiculous Irish myth that the Premiership, despite having higher scoring games and more tries than the Pro 12 is boring!

    • I’m honestly not so sure that holds up. Teams in relegation dogfights often throw their hat at games they know they won’t win and save themselves for teh ‘relegation six-pointer’. Certainly, in the Top 14 the bottom-feeders don’t try a leg in away games against the big boys, although they do try to defend their home ground relatively vigorously.

  13. Not Michael Bent

     /  September 17, 2013

    One thing that intrigues me to this point is the relative silence coming from Sky on the whole affair.

    Last Sunday afternoon, I watched Plymouth Vs Jersey, from the Championship (not that bad a game as it happens) on Sky. They had Barnesy, and Harrison and Quinnell etc there, pretty much just trying to keep them warm for the Heineken Cup in a few weeks time. Because they’ve nothing else to show, they were trying to make that game seem important.

    If Sky were to lose European coverage as well, I can’t see how they do anything pull rugby coverage entirely (including dropping the proposed Rabo/Celtic League coverage for next year). What’s the point of having any of those guys on your books if you use them for the autumn internationals, Lions every four years and weekly league games that nobody cares about?

    And I just can’t see Murdoch and co letting this go without a fight. This is just one battle of the war that is ongoing between Sky and BT over sports coverage in general.

    The simple fact is that live sports broadcasting is the last bastion of TV advertising, or at least ad breaks, and that makes high profile sports events on television ridiculously valuable. While you might Sky + Breaking Bad, and watch it at your leisure, fast forwarding through the ad breaks, or watch House of Cards on Netflix, without ads, you are always going to want to watch sports LIVE, and at half time, you’re not changing the channel. You might get up and make a cup of tea, but most likely, the TV will be left on in the room.

    That’s why the crazy money continues to be thrown at advertising spots during live events (I include X Factor) – Sky doesn’t love sports, they love money.

    The other issues, number of teams and qualification, are very much secondary. As somebody has already said above, the PRL has had their head turned by a mountain of immediate money from BT and currently are holding a knife to their collective noses. This mountain of money is contingent on BT getting the Heineken Cup rights from Sky as well.

    Aside from the fact that there is no chance the French teams actually want to play in an Anglo-French league (what purpose does it serve? As much of a stereotype as it may sound, the insularity of French rugby and disdain for other countries makes it infinitely more likely they would just expand their league to Top 16), BT don’t want an Anglo-French league either.

    All BT want to do is beat Sky, which means that as long as Sky don’t have the Heineken Cup, they win.

    And given Rupert Murdoch and co’s tendency to legal action, let’s get ready to judicially rumble.

    • Michael Robinson

       /  September 18, 2013

      I don’t think that Barnesy and co are Sky employees. They’ll be freelancers, hired guns who may get a contract from Sky for a season, but could be dropped or go to BT if they came calling (however, I don’t think BT would as they’ll be looking to create their own style, not be Sky-lite)

      On the point about advertising, this really isn’t that significant to broadcasters like Sky and BT – advertising is less than 10% of Sky’s revenues so is dwarfed by subscriptions.

      You are right that there will be a major fight between Sky and BT but Sky currently have about two thirds market share of subscription TV in the UK, so BT really do have a lot of ground to make up.

      However the major fight will be over football rights – other sports like rugby are just icing on the cake in comparison.

      • Not Michael Bent

         /  September 18, 2013

        I accept your that point Sky get less than 10% of their revenue from advertising may be correct, but that 10% cannot be equally amortised across all of their channels.

        There are basically no ads on the movie channels, and you can get a 30 second ad slot on Sky Living for about the same as a month’s rent on a three bed apartment in Dublin City Centre, so that 10% (or whatever) is completely reliant on the advertising revenue stream that comes from the sports channels.

        That was kind of the point.

    • The exact same thought struck us – we’ll be posting on it tomorrow in fact!

  14. Matt

     /  September 17, 2013

    Obviously all this uncertainty is bad stuff, but there is also disagreement over the structure of Super Rugby at the minute, and with all the chat about a global season, this is the ideal time for the IRB to actually take charge. I’ve heard nothing from them, but I think they should get everyone from the LNR, Pro12, Premier rugby, all the unions, SANZAR, and input from players and fans and try and get rugby structured in a truly professional way. This would be almost impossible, but here’s what I think should happen regarding the rugby calendar:
    September-October: The international block 1 is where the World Cup already is, but Lions tours would also be there, as well as international test series between two countries like the June Internationals, but if a team was home in 2014, then away 2016. So for example Ireland would have a series against the All blacks at home next year, then have a World Cuo next year, then be away to Argentina in 2016.
    October-February: Club Block 1- this is the league block. In NH, there are three leagues of 12, with the Premiership, Pro12 and a Top12 in France. In SH, there are also three leagues, but of 8. The first will have the 5 nz teams, plus three Pacific Island teams. The second will have the 5 oz teams plus three Japanese/Asian teams. The third will have the 6 SA teams plus two from Argentina.
    All of these these 6 Leagues have every team play each other home and away. Who ever is top at the end wins the league winners shield.
    March-May: International Block 2- Six Nations up here, Tri nations down there, so five matches up here, six for them.
    May-July: Club Block 2- The solution to the European Cup Problem, the top 2 from each league, as well as the two best third placed teams wuth most points, progress to the European Cup Playoffs. There are also competitions for the other third placed finisher, the fourth and fifth places teams and the best of the sixth placed finishers. (This would still be a brilliant competition) this is called the European Shield. There is also a European Plate and perhaps a European Bowl, all of eight teams too. From there it is a knockout tournament to find the champions of Europe at each Level. In SH it’s similar, but it can only go down to the Plate level obviously.
    And at the end the SH Cup and the euro Cup winners okay each other in the World Cup of clubs thing the french love.

    This is my wee idea

  15. Dave

     /  September 18, 2013

    The point saying Munster are essential is a bit silly. Surely they are no more essential than one of the big French clubs like BO that used to dominate but are a lot more patchy now.

    Thanks for mentioning this irritating view in Ireland that the Premiership despite having more tries and points scored that the Pro 12 is boring!

  16. I don’t get the point saying that Munster have to be in the competition. The best teams, ebb and flow. Nobody would say that a HC without a former big team like Biarritz is weaker, likewise, if Munster aren’t good enough it doesn’t weaken the competition.

  17. Dublin-Irish

     /  September 18, 2013

    Munster would have qualified last year if you guarantee each country one entrant which is the format most commonly put forward. That would mean the top 5 plus Treviso. However Leinster won the Amlin last year and are automatically qualified. That would mean the top 6 from the rabo plus Treviso would qualify, which includes Munster.

  18. David Kilpatrick

     /  September 20, 2013

    Seems like an impasse has been reached but the fact that the IRB has come out against the England/France option has to make them think again as potential sanctions could be crippling. Prediction that it won’t happen if the Celts stick together. Punters want Munster v Leicester not Sale v Montpellier. Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2013 10:06:48 +0000 To: degk77@hotmail.com

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