Heineken Cup: Scottish Rugby set for cash bonanza in wake of Edinburgh success
EDINBURGH have set up a revenge mission with Toulouse after securing a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup, but will also trigger a cash windfall that could open the door to professional rugby finally taking off in Scotland.
As part of an historic shift in European rugby, Edinburgh are one of five teams from the Celtic league, now the RaboDirect PRO12, into the last eight for the first time in the tournament’s 17-year history. It is only the second occasion that England provide just one qualifier, Saracens, while France have only Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne.
The Scots defeated London Irish 34-11 at Murrayfield yesterday to top Pool 2 and clinch a home quarter-final with the same French side they faced on the previous occasion they reached the quarter-finals, in 2004. Then, they had to return to France and lost 36-10.
For coach Michael Bradley, winning the pool was enough to be joyous, but he is excited by the potential of cutting down the four-times European champions in his first season coaching in the Heineken Cup.
“I am delighted,” he said. “Toulouse at home is much better than having Toulouse away. They can be stunning, but if you do your work and are clinical you can put them under pressure and Gloucester did that and Harlequins did that.
“This is a huge step forward for Edinburgh Rugby. There is a talented group of players here and they made a commitment to each other in August, talking about a way to play and a commitment to areas that we weren’t good at in the past. It’s produced some fantastic games here.
“The boys have done what they set out to do, so far. It was great to see the size of the crowd. Week on week it’s building, with people maybe coming back or beginning to connect to provincial rugby. Glasgow have been going very well and their support is growing, so it is very important for Scottish rugby that this continues.”
Edinburgh defeated Toulouse at home in the 2003-4 season, but have since lost to them twice at home, and the French team famously won the Heineken Cup at Murrayfield in 2005.
Guy Noves was the Toulouse coach in all of those encounters and he said last night: “Edinburgh are a complete team. I watched them during the pool games and especially during the game against Racing Metro in Paris they were impressive.
“People think Edinburgh have good backs but lack power with their forwards, but I disagree. Against the Racing Metro they had good continuity and went through the phases and were very good at turnovers.
“Edinburgh really represent Scottish rugby well, which is actually in a positive time at the moment. They have got better and better the last few years.”
There is a greater confidence around Scottish rugby eight years on from that last quarter-final meeting, backed by the new SRU leadership, and it will now be enhanced financially. As well as promising a bumper crowd at Murrayfield on the weekend of 6/7/8 April, the pool success has ensured a pay-out of around £450,000 supplemented by a share in the gate receipts.
The SRU, Edinburgh and Glasgow have always agreed to divide tournament winnings between the two professional teams, which means if Glasgow reach the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs they will also inject fresh money into the pot. But with Glasgow failing to qualify for the Amlin Challenge Cup knockout stages, after losing in Bath, if their supporters and any others across Scotland buy tickets for the quarter-final they will ensure more cash for Scottish rugby. It was this kind of success which provided the platform for Irish rugby to build from.
If Edinburgh win, they would face a semi-final in Ireland’s new Aviva Stadium against the winner of Munster v Ulster.
• Injury fears over Brown and Denton
THE Heineken Cup may have produced a magical day for Scottish rugby yesterday, but it also presented international coach Andy Robinson with fresh injury worries, as No 8 Kelly Brown suffered a suspected fractured fibula during Saracens’ win in Treviso, while David Denton missed Edinburgh’s victory with a hamstring strain. Joe Ansboro is also a major doubt for Scotland’s Six Nations opener against England in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield on 4 February as he struggles to recover from a back injury.
The national squad gets together at St Andrews this evening to begin preparations for the championship, with full fitness updates expected.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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