Cockerill warns England over euro future
October 1, 2013
Richard Cockerill has thrown his weight behind the new Champions Cup © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has said England will suffer if the battle over the future of the Heineken Cup descends into a club versus country row.
English and French clubs are showing no signs of standing down in their desire to push for a club-run European competition next season, a tournament which would replace the Heineken Cup.
However, following Monday's English and Welsh launch of the new season of European rugby, the body in charge of the Heineken Cup is still optimistic compromise can be found over the future of the tournament.
ERC chief Derek McGrath says "the door is still open" for Premiership Rugby and France's Ligue Nationale de Rugby to be part of a new tournament agreement, but it appears a forlorn hope, at best.
Premiership Rugby and LNR want Celtic and Italian teams to join their venture, and Cockerill said: "It's very important that all countries are represented, but that has to be on the right terms. Premiership teams are battling hard every week to qualify for Europe, and that affects you for the next 12 months.
"Why is it all right for Leicester, Bath or Wasps to miss out on Europe, but it's not all right for Munster or Leinster to miss out? If you want to be in the best tournament, you should qualify for it. If you're in the top six of the Rabo (RaboDirect PRO12) you are in it, if you're not you're not. Makes sense to me."
But one stumbling block facing the new tournament, named the Rugby Champions Cup, is the need for Union ratification. The Unions in the PRO12 have already said they will only permit their clubs to join the Champions Cup if it receives International Rugby Board approval and the Rugby Football Union is yet to declare its hand.
Potentially, either the English clubs or RFU could deny players involvement in Test rugby should a bitter dispute ensue, but Cockerill insists England would suffer most from such an outcome.
"The players are contracted to their clubs and the Premiership is their bread and butter," he said. "Hypothetically, if they tried to exclude every Premiership player, then they would do well to sell-out Twickenham. Try going to the 2015 Rugby World Cup without any players, that would work well, wouldn't it? Leicester fully supports what the English clubs are trying to do."
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