The Heineken Cup launched today (potentially for the last time – but let’s not go there right now), which gave the French players and coaches (as well as the outspoken ERC chairman) in attendance a chance to react to all the developments in the European Cup debate. Here’s what they had to say:
Jean-Pierre Lux (ERC Chairman):
“The FFR has now officially reminded the LNR that no international game involving French clubs can take place without the advance permission of the FFR. And the RFU has a similar position regarding Premiership Rugby.
“The recent media releases from the LNR and Premiership Rugby lacked respect. In June, the LNR committed to the principle of central marketing for ERC’s tournaments which has been the at the heart of European club rugby’s commercial success.
“While this process began in 2012, ERC met with the parties during the summer with the exception of Premiership Rugby who refused to engage. They have never entered into negotiations. This impasse is essentially because Premiership Rugby want to renege on a binding commercial deal in favour of their questionable TV contract with BT.
“I sincerely hope that people reflect on the current problems. We have another opportunity for everyone to finally engage with the process with the meeting on 23 and 24 October with the IRB-recommended mediator, Graeme Mew. I hope we will be able to reach an agreement .
“It would be disastrous to deprive so many players and fans of the opportunity of participating in such an outstanding tournament.”
Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse captain):
“We love this competition and we’ll be ready when it starts next month. It’s always one of our major objectives every season to do well in the Heineken Cup. By the time the tournament kicks-off in October we’ll have all our international players back in harness and we should be in good shape.
“We have four stars on our jerseys to show the four European titles we’ve won, but I have only won it once with Toulouse. It would be great to add to that.”
Bernard Laporte (Toulon Head Coach):
“Winning the Heineken Cup has given us a new status and we would like to retain that. I saw the trophy today at the launch and the trophy said to me: ‘The weather is beautiful in Toulon and the girls are beautiful and I don’t want to leave’. That’s what I am going to say to my players.
“We are very proud to have won the Heineken Cup once and we know that if we want to win it again then we will have to be as good as last year. We certainly want to win it again – because it is the Heineken Cup. It is the supreme competition.”
William Servat (Toulouse Assistant Coach and three-time Heineken Cup winner):
“We always look forward to playing in the Heineken Cup. It has given so much to the game and has certainly helped to raise standards. You can’t afford to underestimate any team in this tournament. A few years ago there may have been a few easier matches, but no longer. This is what makes the Heineken Cup so special.
“We are proud to have qualified for every tournament and it is very important to the club. Not only for the players and coaches, but also for our partners and fans. We will keep on playing as hard as we have always done in the past.”
Laurent Labit (Racing Metro 92 coach):
“The Heineken Cup is the first major goal of our season. We hope it will help us to really launch our season. It is very high level competition and you find teams play with a bit more freedom compared to the Top 14.”
Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier):
“The Heineken Cup has always been an absolutely fantastic tournament to play in. We’re going to places like Welford Road and Ravenhill to meet the likes of Leicester Tigers and Ulster. That’s what makes the tournament so special.”
Interesting comments, and although no players or coaches openly came out and condemned the new ‘Rugby Champions Cup’, it certainly sounds like they would prefer not to see the Heineken Cup in its current guise scrapped. Sadly, it is not a decision that is in their hands.
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images