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Saturday 22 September 2018

Heineken is safe thanks to French

Leinster captain Leo Cullen (L) and Shane Jennings lift the Heineken Cup. Picture credit: Tom Dwyer / SPORTSFILE
Leinster captain Leo Cullen (L) and Shane Jennings lift the Heineken Cup. Picture credit: Tom Dwyer / SPORTSFILE

THE French Top-14 clubs have made the decisive move to commit their future to next year's Heineken Cup.

Presidents of the Top 14 teams gathered in Paris yesterday afternoon for a meeting of Ligue Nationale de Rugby, which runs the league, and chose to side with the governing bodies.

"The clubs voted unanimously that a new structure is put in place to organise new competitions in accordance with the federations," read a statement released by LNR.

Last Thursday the Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French and Italian unions issued a joint statement declaring they stood "side by side" in driving a format overseen by ERC.

This has now destroyed the plan of the English Premiership clubs to lead a revolution and, thus, they have been marginalised by their French counterparts' decision to join the Welsh, Scottish, Italian and Irish rugby unions.

In effect, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), or what English speaking countries know as the French National League or French clubs, held the pendulum of power.

Loyalty

Their eventual loyalty to the ERC and the Heineken and Amlin Cups pushes the Premiership clubs into a perilous position of risking isolation and exclusion.

The first real crack in the Premiership's move to wrest control of European competition away from the unions came last week.

The Irish, French, Scottish, Italian and Welsh Rugby Unions met and agreed to proceed with the Heineken Cup in season 2014/2015.

The weight of the French Federation and the International Rugby Board behind the quintet of unions was thought to be decisive for the French clubs.

At that meeting, the changes initially agreed to appease the English and French unions at mediation discussions in late October had been retained.

There will be a 20-club Heineken Cup, merit-based qualification and a change in the split of finances as agreed by the six unions in answer to the English and French clubs' demands.

The English Rugby Union and the Premiership clubs were not represented and remain in limbo for the moment as the clubs contemplate the idea of playing a long game.

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