RFU pushes for revamped Heineken Cup

 

The vexed future of the Heineken Cup, by common consent the best club rugby competition in the world, was being debated once again yesterday as delegates from all six competing nations gathered in Rome to work out a way of holding the thing together in the face of English and French threats to walk away in 2014.

While those talks were in progress, Twickenham confirmed that it was throwing its weight behind a change of format. "Our view is very clear, we want a highly-competitive, meritocratic competition," said Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the Rugby Football Union.

The clue to his thinking was in the m-word. At present, there are guaranteed places for each country: six for England and France, three for Ireland and Wales, two for Scotland and Italy. This system, considered to be grossly unfair by the two biggest nations, is now on its last legs. With RFU support, the argument for a tougher, results-based qualification format is likely to be won.

Ritchie and his organisation are in a sensitive position in another important respect. The decision of the English clubs to sign a £152m broadcasting deal with BT Vision that includes rights to European matches involving Premiership teams has caused uproar across rugby-playing Europe and the chief executive confirmed yesterday that his organisation had not given its approval. Pressed on the matter, he admitted that the clubs had not even sought such approval.

"A process is now under way and, while I have no idea at all how things will turn out, we have some time on our side and I'm optimistic that an agreement can be reached," Ritchie added.

"The question is how we get from where we are to where we want to be in terms of the quality European tournament we all want to see. Will it end up with the lawyers? My view is always that you can obviate legal action by agreeing between yourselves."

Not for the first time in his brief Twickenham career, Ritchie was asked whether there might be room at the RFU for the return of Sir Clive Woodward, the architect of the World Cup-winning campaign of 2003 – especially as Woodward's tour of duty with the British Olympic Association is at an end. "As there is no vacancy, there's no point talking about abstractions," Ritchie replied, with an air of weary finality.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions