Who cares about the Challenge Cup – Not the French!

One of the stated goals of the new European rugby tournaments was an increase in how competitive the new competitions would be. If that has been achieved in the Champions Cup the same cannot be said of its baby sister, the Challenge Cup.

While 25,600 were watching a full-blooded Munster v Clermont affair in Round 3, a paltry 4,000 went to see Brive (who average over 12,000 in the Top 14) take on Oyonnax.

To be fair to EPCR, not all blame can be laid at their door. The Amlin Challenge Cup, its previous incarnation, was never particularly loved by supporters. But crucially, there was at least the carrot of a place in the Heineken Cup for the winner. With that carrot taken away in favour of an end-of-season play-off system that merely adds another two weeks of competitive rugby to an already cluttered calendar, what reason does any club really have to prioritise the Challenge Cup over its domestic league?

If there is any hope of the Challenge Cup being a worthwhile tournament, it must hold qualification for its big brother, the Champions Cup. Without it, this season it has become less competitive, not more. Until that happens it will remain a damp squib of a tournament, unloved by fans, media, and to be brutally honest, clubs alike.

Mike Miles


The Perils of a fourth international

I was getting mighty excited at the third and fourth rounds of the European Cup. ….the back-to-back clashes between Munster and Clermont, Leicester and Toulon ..I could go on.

But the folly of both England and Wales sticking in a fourth international to the November window was reflected in the playing staff of those clubs who received players with seven shades knocked out of them.

This seems a clear disadvantage to English and Welsh teams, and one foisted upon them by greedy Unions.

Mike Miles


Irish in Frame for 2023 Rugby World Cup?

Couldn’t get tickets for next year’s world Cup?

The 2019 Tournament will be held in Japan, so that could prove a bit expensive

Fear not, for bids will shortly be invited for potential hosts for the 2013 tournament.South Africa, who pitched for 2015 and 2019 are likely to be bidding.Argentina and Italy may also throw their hat into the ring.

Rumour has it Ireland may be making a bid.If so, it is likely to be a sole union one,playing matches in Northern Ireland as well as the Republic,and using GAA stadia such as Croke Park.

A final decision is unlikely to be made until 2017

No word on Qatar putting a bid in though…..

Mike Miles


Please listen to what fans want

I am looking forward to Quins “Big Game 7 against Northampton Saints immediately after Christmas. This game provides a great excuse to drag oneself away from the excesses of the festive season and watch some live rugby at a reasonable cost.

However, it is clear from  previous such matches that the majority of those present are there for th same reason and not necessarily “real ” rugby fans.So what you might ask, But I see Edward Griffiths, the ever-quotable chief executive of Saracens, has been accusing other Premiership clubs of being “depressingly conservative” in not staging a “Big game” of their own. his own team after all are regular attendees at Wembley, and go here next March to play Quins.

The question he doesn’t ask is whether the loyal fans of the likes of Northampton, Bath and Leicester, really want a “Big Game.And where would they play it? those clubs have taken occasional games to other bigger venues but they’ve done it to accommodate real demand-it was still a rugby crowd, not one forced to endure third-rate entertainment with the game as a sideshow.

When Sarries went on their trip to play Racing Metro in Brussels what longer term good did it do? Perhaps they should concentrate ion filling Allianz Park, something they are having trouble doing now the novelty has worn off.

Mike Miles


Good Bye to Adams Park

It has never been easy to love Adams Park. It sits at the end of an industrial estate, a cul-de-sac of deserted office and factory space on a Sunday, a bunged-up traffic black-spot, forlorn, uninspiring, a far remove from a raucous bear-bit. And it’s not even in London!

Wasps have not been a London club for a decade, but nomads for some while now, and have made a virtue of it, the waifs and strays that banded together and took on the world to such good effect.

You do wonder if the move to Coventry will work. You imagine how desolate the 32,000 capacity Rioch might be on match day with the diehards rattling around inside. It will be a case of starting over. When Wasps moved to Loftus Road they struggled to attract gates of more than 5,000. They have never managed to attract more than a decent smattering of supporters at Adams Park, a ballpark figure of 6,000.(Today’s attendance was 5842). Leicester even managed to pull in 22,639 for the visit of Newcastle. They now not only need their current fans to remain loyal, which will be difficult enough with travelling costs rising and more time needed to get home matches, but to attract thousands of new ones . It will take time.

Meanwhile, there was a game to be played.
Today’s match against hitherto winless London Welsh was the club’s final Premiership fixture at Adams Park. The last game of all is a European rugby Champions Cup match-up against Castres in four weeks. For the record, today’s was Wasps’ 131st Premiership game at Adams Park, but only the second against London Welsh. (The first game there was in September 2002, a 38-35 win over Bristol)

The Exiles are rock bottom of the Premiership, having gleaned one point, conceded 36 tries and 272 points in their opening six games. Now make that 47 tries and 343 points. Nathan Hughes got the ball rolling with a try with just a minute gone before Johnson,Sailosi Tagicakibau and Hughes again made it 26-0 at half-time. Things got completely out of hand for Welsh in the second period as Wade and Johnson completed their hat tricks while Tom Varndell and Joe Simpson also touched down to make it 11 tries in total for the hosts. At least Wasps ended their Aviva Premiership Rugby tenure at Adams Park in style.

FIFA can have a good idea

During the 2014 FIFA World cup we saw the introduction of a white vanishing spray being used by referees to mark where a free kick should be taken.

With rugby referees constantly turning a blind eye to crooked feeds perhaps it is time that they used the same spray to set the scrum. A small line could be drawn as the centre spot with hookers heads positioned over the mark before and when the ball is put in. The mark would also be the line on which the scrum-half must put the ball in. Perhaps this might end the ridiculous feeding by scrum-halves . If referees penalize crooked feeds the No. 9’s would soon learn.

The hookers would then have to hook the ball,which is why they are called “hookers!” Without this basic skill the role of a hooker becomes redundant,as their only designated role would be to throw the ball in at a line-out – which can be done by any player prepared to learn the skill.

Mike Miles


Premiership rugby to the US should stay a dream

Football’s Premiership seems to be trying to revive the notion of playing an extra league fixture in faraway lands..Burnley v Stoke in Bangkok anyone?

Rugby seems to have caught the same bug. There is talk of the Aviva Premiership and the Six Nations taking a game to the United States. Blame the All Blacks who drew a 61,000 crowd to watch them play the US Eagles in Chicago.

Once again it shows the disconnect between those who run the game and those who watch it. The first Six Nations match next year is a Friday evening kick-off in Cardiff. I can tell you from bitter experience that the road into the Welsh capital from the London end turns into a car park every Friday, regardless of what might be happening at the Millennium Stadium.

How far is the game prepared to bow to the demands of television? I think we know that the answer to that is “how far would you like us to?”

But what justification is there for taking a game to a country thousands of miles away where rugby’s footprint would not even show up in the sand?

Mike Miles