Heineken War could harm World Cup 2015

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Could the current row over the future of the Heineken Cup threaten the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

 

The next Rugby World Cup is precisely two years away, and according to the chief executives at the heart of it, the important “building blocks” are already in place. Unfortunately for them foundations have already been laid for a boardroom row that could turn the next 24 months into a diplomatic morass.

Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union CEO, and his counterpart at the England 2015 delivery body, Debbie Evans, have joined forces to talk up the positive aspects of their World Cup planning to date, but both were aware of the landslide that will engulf them if the two sides in the European dispute remain at loggerheads.

 

Ritchie did not throw much light on how far the RFU might go in backing its senior clubs when push comes to shove. But the truth of the matter is that Ritchie finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

As always, it is a case of “follow the money”. The Premiership clubs, blessed with unprecedented wealth from their game-changing deal with BT Sport, are in a far stronger position than other national governing bodies across Europe. What alarms the latter the most is the prospect of prolonged dispute undermining preparations for a World Cup that is expected to generate sufficient money to support the international game for years to come.

 

If the French and English clubs go it alone, the repercussions could be incredibly damaging for the game. If the clubs don’t have the total backing of their Unions, there could be massive financial consequences should a possible breach of contract occur and that could have a long term effect on club finances.

As a shareholder in ERC, the RFU and FFR have commitments to sponsors (Heineken and Sky) and to the other Unions. Those commitments could be enforced by the IRB who could threaten the withdrawal of international matches for both England and France if they fail to control their clubs.

With the World Cup on the horizon, that could have a serious impact on preparations for both nations and on the money available to the RFU.

 

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio believes lack of a strong European competition could adversely affect England’s chances on the pitch in 2015. He believes “the Heineken Cup is a wonderful competition that gives every country in Europe an edge that would be foolish to under-estimate.””We’ve had a hard job wrestling the World Cup from the southern hemisphere, so we need to have the best competitions in this part of the world for the players to play in” he added.

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The Weather is the Winner

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The Match

 

Friday  September 13,2013

Harlequins v Northampton Saints

@ The Stoop: k.o. 19.45

Aviva Premiership : Round 2

L.V.Stand:Block FH:Row J : Seat 0215: ££37.50

 

Harlequins………………….6

Northampton Saints……13

 

 

The last time I was at the Stoop  was to watch London Broncos in Superleague.It was played on an August evening in conditions so hot and humid that the players were complaining afterwards that they were even finding it difficult breathing.

That wasn’t a problem tonight. Staying upright was. It was wet, really wet, and it seemed to suit Northampton more all the way down to the sodden ground.

 

B.T.had selected this match as a free-to-all offering, presumably in the hope that the scintillating rugby on offer would prompt wannabee rugby fans to rush off and buy a subscription. If that was the case they must have despaired when they saw the weather forecast.

A week ago I had witnessed Northampton demolish Exeter with four tries before half time. Quins are a side that like to throw the ball about. But throw in a downpour from start to finish and it was obvious that the team that would triumph was that which adapted to the conditions-and had the luck of the bounce.

 

Access/Parking

 

Quins are in the rugby union corridor that leads from Richmond to Cornwall. The Stoop is a 10-mile drag south-west of central London, but is easily reached via the M25 and M3.

Trains run regularly from Waterloo and the ground is only a 15-minute walk from Twickenham Station.

Parking is available in neighbouring car parks, including Richmond College next door. The concrete behemoth that is Twickenham stadium is blessed with large car parks so you could chance your arm and park there, and make the 5-minute walk over the A316 dual-carriageway.

 

 

Welcome

 

The game was played in heavy, incessant rain, so it was a wonder anyone could raise a smile. The club were using a new electronic system at the turnstiles which seemed to be working smoothly enough judging by the speed with which people got through.

Understandably, the programme seller looked as if she would rather be elsewhere.

 

Ticket/View/Comfort

 

With four modern stands the stoop is basically a new stadium, and must be one of the best in the Premiership. The colourful seats are comfortable enough, with unobstructed views, and almost all are covered.

That was especially important on a night like tonight. I had paid £37.50 for a seat in Row J, but I did feel sorry for those unfortunates who were sitting in the first few rows and virtually unprotected from the elements.

 

Atmosphere

 

I suppose you could blame it on the dampening effect-literally-of the weather but there wasn’t much of an atmosphere. This couldn’t have been helped by the home team’s inability to score a try, and even to kick their penalties.

Saints had brought a small but noisy group of fans and you just sensed they just cared more about the result.

 

 

The Game

 

A try on the hour by Northampton’s James Wilson, converted from the touchline by Stephen Myler, was enough to split the sides. When Northampton picks a side like this they are big, brutishly big. At least three of their backs, including George North, could probably operate in the back row of the pack. And there weren’t many saints among the forwards either. With the rain teeming down, Quins knew they were in for a night of fierce, unrelenting, close-quarter pain, and to their credit they met the challenge head on. Ironically, Quins could still have won comfortably but for the remarkable profligacy of Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans. Normally one of the most accurate kickers in the Aviva Premiership he missed four of his six kicks at goal. Eventually he was replaced by Ben Botica, but then he pulled a shot in front of the posts.

 

The game had been billed as an early-season showdown of two title contenders, littered with enthralling head-to-heads, including the back-row battle for the England captaincy between Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood, but the torrential rain ruined any chance of a spectacle and turned the match into a war of attrition.

In a tight game played in unhelpful conditions Quins paid the price for not taking their chances while Northampton did.

Here We Go Again…..

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The Match

Saturday September 7,2013

Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs

@ Franklin’s Gardens: k.o. 15.00

Aviva Premiership : Round 1

Church’s Stand:Block R:Row M : Seat 590: £40.00

Northampton Saints……38

Exeter Chiefs………………11

 

It seems like only yesterday that the final whistle blew on the Lions’ winning tour of Australia, which came after England’s success in Argentina. But a new season has just kicked off, one that heralds a new era of change and expectation.

Northampton Saints have splashed out and recruited not only Lion George North, but also another Lion in Alex Corbisiero and the Samoa scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i. With that trio on board and skipper Dylan Hartley determined to prove his doubters wrong, Northampton are one of the favourites to go one better than last season and win the Premiership title.

 

Access

I let the train take the strain. Northampton is only an hour out of London Euston, and I managed to bag myself a day-return for £12.00

The clubs’ web site advises that the station is approximately 20 minutes’ walk from Franklins’ Gardens, but obviously hadn’t allowed for the extensive building works around the station that took 5 minutes to navigate.

Then its turn right, continue past the Thomas A Becket pub, the Church shoe factory and bus station. At the fork in the road bear left and the stadium is on the left.

Alternatively just follow the green and black clad hordes….

Apparently the No 22 bus takes you to the ground from the station, but the stop seemed to be a casualty of the building works.

 

Welcome

The steward I asked for directions, and the programme seller, were friendly enough, but it took a walk round the ground to find my stand.

The back of my ticket had a map of the ground but no indication of the layout of the surrounding roads.

 

Ticket/View/Comfort

I had paid £40 for a seat in Block R of the Church’s Stand. This was virtually in line with the try line at the southern end, and fortunately was where the Saints scored their four first-half tries!

 

Atmosphere

 

Saints flew out of the traps and opened the try-scoring after only two minutes through Dylan Hartley. This set the 12,205 crowd up nicely, but what really got them excited was their expensive summer signing, George North. He had to wait 17 minutes for his new team-mates to give him a pass, whereupon he had the crowd cheering a mazy run from his own 22 to inside the Chiefs’ 10-yard line.

 He might well have scored, so deafening was the roar. Saints Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder claimed afterwards that “I’ve not bought him here to get people off their seats.”Maybe so, but North did just that.

 

The Game

Both these sides had been heavily talked up in the build-up to the new season, but it’s already easier to believe the predictions that Saints could go one better than last season’s runners –up position than it is to see the Chiefs raising their level to one of the top four playoff places.

 

Of course, one game does not maketh a season, but not many sides are going to come away from Franklin’s Gardens with much to show for it, but Exeter looked nothing like the side who finished last year with six wins from their final seven games.

 

Eating and Drinking

The club’s website was making much of a “new dawn “in the club’s catering. So one can only guess what pre-ceded it. There were lots of earlier comments in the blogosphere about long queues.

In the Village behind the South Stand there was a fair assortment. There was a Dominos pizza van, along with burger and fish and chip vans, a hog roast, a coffee van and the sweetie van.

I have to confess the only one I used was for a coffee and muffin post-game.

Value For Money

An afternoon at Franklin’s Gardens is not cheap. My ticket was £40 and with Northampton operating a tiered pricing policy had it been say Saracens I was watching I would have forked out more

The programme was £3 and for that you got 84 pages, with about 25 of those consisting of third-party advertising.