Rugby chiefs to confirm Heineken Cup replacement

Confirmation of the details of European club rugby’s new elite tournament remains on hold but an announcement could be made as early as today.
Picture: GettyPicture: Getty
Picture: Getty

It had been thought all would be revealed last night, but it could now be today or early next week.

A new 20-team competition is expected to see six Aviva Premiership teams, six clubs from France’s Top 14 competition and seven of the RaboDirect PRO12 sides qualify for a competition replacing the Heineken Cup.

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The final place would be decided after a play-off between this season’s seventh-placed finishers in the Premiership and Top 14.

It is understood an agreement is very close and, once signed, all parties can then chase a resolution between broadcasters BT Sport and Sky, both of whom have indicated a willingness to agree a compromise TV rights deal. The Six Nations committee is expected to provide the basis of the new governing body, with some existing European Rugby Cup staff retained.

Meanwhile, Bath will be looking to bring Sale’s late push for a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs to a halt at the Recreation Ground tonight.

Victory over the Sharks would cement third place for Mike Ford’s team and strengthen the claim of old rivals Leicester to a spot in the play-offs. With Sale and Harlequins the only teams capable of displacing tonight’s combatants, Bath have the opportunity to all but remove them from contention.

“This is a huge game for both teams,” Bath head coach Ford said. “A win for us would see make us a bit more secure in the top four while, for Sale, it would narrow the gap and potentially see them break into the play-off spaces.”