independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Pro12 clubs in the dark over Heineken Cup qualification format

Players from Wales and Ireland may have formed the backbone of a victorious Lions tour, but the new season in those countries begins this week shrouded in uncertainty.

RaboDirect Pro 12 teams still do not know what they need to do to qualify for the Heineken Cup, assuming the tournament survives beyond May with English and French clubs having served notice they will be pulling out.

While the uncertainty about the Heineken Cup's future will have little impact on the English and French clubs because the top six in their respective leagues would be guaranteed entry, the picture is murkier for the Pro12 sides.

The French and English clubs want qualification to be meritocratic and have proposed reducing the number of teams in the Heineken Cup from 24 to 20, with the top six from all three leagues that feed into the competitions all going through.

Under the current system, the two Scottish and the two Italian teams in the Pro12 qualify for the Heineken Cup regardless of where they finish in the table.

The French and English clubs want league positions to be the deciding factor, although they have conceded each of the four countries that make up the tournament should be guaranteed at least one representative.

The change would mean that fourth place would not be good enough to secure a place in the Heineken Cup if Welsh or Irish teams dominated the top four. With the tournament organisers admitting it may take until the end of the season to find a resolution, Pro12 teams will be operating in the dark.

Observer

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