Tuesday 6 December 2016

Champions Cup needs an Irish comeback, says EPCR chief Gaillard

Published 06/10/2016 | 02:30

Champions Cup chief Vincent Gaillard Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Champions Cup chief Vincent Gaillard Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

After a historically poor performance by the provinces in Europe last season, Champions Cup chief Vincent Gaillard insisted that the competition needs a strong Irish presence.

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The EPCR director general dismissed the notion that the changes made to the tournament in 2014 had been designed to favour English and French clubs.

All eight quarter-final places went the way of Premiership and Top 14 teams last season, the first time no Pro12 side had reached the last eight.

He wants that stranglehold broken this season.

"I certainly hope it will be broken, yes," he said. "We definitely want to see the Irish provinces coming back strong.

"It's fair to say they are looking at themselves first. It was absolutely not about blaming the new format. It was about 'we need to get it right, we need to get better, we need to deserve to be back'. The level is higher. They are on the case and we certainly all hope that the Irish provinces will be back in the game.

"I can guarantee you that (an Anglo-French dominated competition) is absolutely not what we want. We want a truly European tournament. We want the Irish to be successful.

"Is there imbalance here and there because of the money floating back into the (French and English) leagues? Certainly.

"But is the format of our competition preventing the provinces from being strong? Absolutely not, and it's in absolutely no-one's interest for the competition to end up as a French or English (tournament)."

Gaillard said that EPCR are looking beyond the traditional countries for next season's Champions Cup final, with Italy and Spain the likely destinations.

The unpopular dual-television deal which sees Sky Sports and BT Sport share the rights is also due to end in 2018 and Gaillard says the organisation wants more free-to-air coverage of the competition in Ireland.

"We will treat Ireland separately. More free to air coverage in Ireland is where we would start."

Irish Independent

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