Monday 18 December 2017

English clubs bid for compromise on European Cup impasse

Gavin Mairs

England Premiership officials will offer a small compromise over the qualifying process as they look to end the impasse over the future of the Heineken Cup at a stakeholder meeting today.

Even the compromise, though, would appear to threaten the annual involvement of Leinster, Munster and Ulster, and would almost certainly freeze Connacht out of the competition altogether.

The London summit has been called to debate the two proposed format changes: a 20-club tournament, as favoured by the English and French clubs, and the 32-team version put forward by their Celtic and Italian counterparts.

A row over broadcasting rights heightened tensions, which threaten the competition's future.

To break the deadlock, Premiership Rugby, looks set to offer a compromise solution to its original demand that the Heineken Cup is reduced from 24 to 20 teams, with only the top six of the Pro12 handed automatic places.

One of the main objections from the Pro12 teams was that this could lead to some countries, such as Scotland and Italy, failing to provide any representatives.

However, Bruce Craig, the owner of Bath – a negotiator at today's meeting, who still insists on a 20-club tournament – last night said: "I am sure an agreement can be reached that there would be at least one participant from each nation.

"I believe there is a solution whereby the (Pro12) top four would go through to a new primary competition and the next two sides going through would be for example the best Scottish and best Italian teams." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Breen named Driver of Year


THERE'S no end in sight to the awards being won by Craig Breen, who has been named Driver of the Year at the Dunlop Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards.

The Waterfrod driver secured his second successive world title last month when he won the S2000 category of the World Rally Championship, following his victory in the WRC Academy in 2011.

Breen was presented with the Manley Memorial Trophy and reflected on what has been a hugely successful, but also emotional year after he lost his best friend and co-driver, Gareth Roberts, during a tragic accident in June.

"It has been a difficult year, but to finally secure the championship (SWRC) in Spain was justification of my decision to continue," he said.

The Billy Coleman award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year went to Monaghan's Daniel McKenna.

Irish Independent

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