This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 10 °C Monday 6 July, 2020

'I think it has lost a little bit of its attractiveness over the last four or five years'

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss a busy week of news, and the future of the Champions Cup, on Rugby Weekly.

Bernard Jackman would welcome any changes that might reignite interest in the Champions Cup in France and elsewhere.
Bernard Jackman would welcome any changes that might reignite interest in the Champions Cup in France and elsewhere.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ON THIS WEEK’S The42 Rugby Weekly (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get yours), Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey had plenty on their plates what with two of the four provinces returning to training and releasing some blessed fitness updates, Leinster announcing the renewal of 28 contracts, the IRFU and RPI’s pay-dispute debate and its equivalent sagas around the world and, of course, a prospective compromise-rules clash between rugby union’s All Blacks and rugby league’s Kangaroos.

But the biggest news, which emerged shortly before the lads dialled in from their respective abodes, was the announcement of concrete plans for the Champions Cup’s return in September.

After that development was celebrated enough, the conversation moved towards the proposed 24-team Champions Cup next season, designed to appease some of those clubs aggrieved by the curtailment of their domestic seasons — most notably Toulouse and Montpellier who were placed just outside France’s six Champions Cup qualification spots when the Top 14 was cancelled.

Bernard mused that the format could stick if it was successful, stressing the need for some sort of change to the Champions Cup in the interests of developing interest in the tournament.

“I think they need to look at the competition and try and get every club craving success in it again,” he said. “The Irish [provinces] are always going to be completely bought into it: it’s part of our culture now in terms of wanting success in that, and that being something that we chase.

“Unfortunately, in some of the other competitions, teams have tended to target it every so often but not every single year. I think it has lost a little bit of its uniqueness or attractiveness over the last four or five years, and I’m happy to see any kind of change of format just to try and get the right balance and get it up there, again, as that competition that has that little bit of a different edge and that has, in the past, created such good memories for all rugby fans.”

He expressed his belief, however, that Toulouse and Montpellier’s clamour for inclusion in next season’s competition is financially motivated, which got the lads discussing the medium-term future of the Champions Cup and the problems it faces.

Bernard: “I think it’s financial, to be honest, given my experience [in France] and speaking to coaches there. Unless they feel they’ve got a squad that’s really, really strong, they don’t really see an opportunity to win it. But they still like to be in it because, financially — say, Lyon having a home game against Leinster is far better for the cash balance than a game against a Zebre in the Challenge Cup. So, you’ll find that for the clubs — bar Racing, Clermont and Toulouse; Toulon have probably dropped off — it’s not a priority for them until they’re on a sounder footing in terms of their rosters.

“It’s mainly financial, to be honest, in being able to guarantee three bumper crowds for the home games.”

Gavan: “Is there any way in which that culture can be changed — particularly for some of the French clubs, but also for some of the Premiership clubs we’ve seen over the last few seasons where, again, they haven’t necessarily prioritised what is a continental competition and should be the apex of the club game in the northern hemisphere? Whatever about a 24-team competition — there’s probably an argument that you could dilute it with more teams — but do you see any way in which the competition could rediscover its lustre of the mid-to-late 2000s for some of these clubs, or even a way to make just make it more attractive for them?”

Murray: “Yeah, I suppose we look at it with green-tinted glasses because it’s always been a big deal — really since Ulster won it and then Munster took off. That’s our perspective on it: that it’s the biggest deal.

I think the Top 14 and Premiership clubs probably look at the Pro14 and go, ‘It’s easy for ye because there’s no relegation [in the Pro14], it’s not as competitive a league, you’re resting your players in an actual league competition and ours is of a much better quality.’ That would be their perspective on things. And Bernard will tell you a lot more about it than me, but having been in France a few times, the history around the Top 14, the atmosphere, the love of the competition that the fans have is longstanding and it’s going to be hard for the clubs to ever prioritise Europe over that.

“I suppose, there’s another way of looking at it, which is that the Pro14 needs to bring itself up to that level, potentially, where the clubs have to play their strongest teams and focus on that domestic competition as well.”

You can listen to the full conversation on the Champions Cup and all of the week’s rugby news at the link below or wherever you get your podcasts.

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella join Gavan Casey to discuss the Champions Cup’s return and future, Leinster’s recent business, pay disputes, and a union-versus-league clash

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

The42 Team

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel