Heineken Cup reform would hold no fears for Greig Laidlaw
EDINBURGH Rugby captain Greig Laidlaw has revealed some sympathy with English and French clubs in their campaign to force the RaboDirect PRO12 to become a qualifier for Europe.
As he prepares to lead Edinburgh into the new Heineken Cup campaign, with a renewed confidence gained from last season’s historic semi-final appearance, the Borderer insists that if the debate raging over changes to the competition, currently ongoing between the northern hemisphere unions, forced all the PRO12 teams to have to qualify for Europe he would not be disappointed.
Adding that he felt Edinburgh would not have slumped to 11th place last season had this term’s Heineken Cup rested on their finish, he said: “I can see where the English and French teams are coming from, if I’m being honest.
“They play in tough leagues that [force] them to qualify. It’s not our decision so it doesn’t affect us, as players, too much, but obviously we love playing in the Heineken Cup.
“We brought something to the competition last year and we have to do that again this year. We have to show that, as a team getting an automatic pick, that we’re worthy of being there.
“Also, we need to make sure that our Rabo form is up there so that if it does change in the future then Edinburgh Rugby are still playing in the Heineken Cup. But I don’t think that [qualification] would be a bad thing, in the long run.”
He continued: “Obviously, it’s good if you know that you’re in the competition, but in terms of pushing players on and developing squads that are capable of winning leagues it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to have that carrot in front of you, to make sure that you need to be up there. As our Rabo form showed last year, [league form] doesn’t matter in regards to the Heineken. I can’t tell you for sure, but [if there was qualification] I’m pretty sure that the boys would have tried a bit harder and a few of the results might have turned the other way.”
That was quite a statement, and is what the English and French believe to be the case, that the Scots, Irish, Welsh and, to a lesser extent, Italians on occasions take their foot off the pedal in the PRO12 and rest, simply because it has no bearing on qualification for Europe.
With the Celtic clubs, particularly the Irish provinces, dominating European in recent seasons, representatives of the French and English clubs served notice of intent to quit the Heineken Cup when the current Accord reaches its conclusion in 2014, unless a new format is agreed that forces qualification into the PRO12. Twice the representatives have been around the table to debate the issues, with the English clubs pouring fuel on the fire by agreeing a new broadcast deal with BT Vision outside the existing regulations and without RFU approval. After a six-hour meeting with all the protagonists in Rome this week, the RFU stated, however, that they do back the clubs’ campaign for a new Heineken Cup into which all teams must qualify.
The next round of debate on a new Heineken Cup will take place in Dublin at the end of the month, allowing the rugby to return to centre stage over the next fortnight.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West