Champions Cup or Emperor’s New Clothes ?

Any Anglo- French base rugby competition will be undoubtedly be a financial success in the short term as financial factors drive both parties desire to split from the Heineken Cup, but exactly how “competition” there will be in this new venture remains to be seen.

France and England can both boast 6 Heineken successes, although an English side has not been victorious since Wasps beat Leicester in the 2006-07 final, since then 5 French sides have appeared in the final and 2 have won it.  Since that 2006-07 season English clubs have only once won the head to head in pool games against French opposition. In 2008-09 the English clubs won 8 games against French opponents compared to just 5 victories by French teams.  In 2007-08 and 2011-12 both nations finished with equal records of 7 wins apiece.  It’s always difficult to draw too many conclusions from French teams performances in the Heineken Cup since only a handful of teams actually bother to field full strength sides, particularly away from home.  With Biarritz Olympique’s recent struggles in both Heineken Cup and domestic competition it’s been left to ASM Clermont Auvergne, RC Toulonnais and European behemoth’s Stade Toulousain to lead the French charge, of the 54 French head to head victories in the last 7 and a bit seasons 24 have been notched up by the 3 big spenders of the Top 14.  The main protagonists for the English sides have been big spending Saracens and the East Midlands powerhouses of Leicester and Northampton, with Harlequins making a token appearance in the knock out stages last season only to be brushed aside by Munster in the quarter finals.  Saracens, Leicester and Northampton have combined for 20 of the 45 English head to head victories.

The notion of an Anglo- French competition maybe enticing BT Sport to front up a large amount of money but the overall quality of the competition as an elite tournament and the quality of most matches must be in question.  With the preponderance of French teams more concerned with Top 14 survival than a wet Friday night game at Sandy Park the same old names will appear in the knock out stages and even fewer teams will actually have the depth of squad to perform well in their domestic play offs and any cup competition.  If BT Sport are interested in a rugby tournament that is dominated by French and English teams they need look no further than the Amlin Challenge Cup, in its 17 year history French and English teams have combined to win it 15 times.