I was interested to hear Former Welsh captain Martyn Williams speak out about the Champions Cup qualification rules. Williams’ gripe was that Cardiff had finished seventh in the Pro12, but lost out to Zebre as these has to be one team from each of the Pro12 countries, irrespective of their final league standing.
I savoured the delicious irony. Williams is on the money when he says the top seven should qualify, irrespective of which nation they’re from. But not many Celts were saying this in the days of the Heineken Cup with its convoluted and loaded qualification rules!
The Celtic nations fought tooth and nail for two years to keep their virtually automatic places, and were only dragged into line when the clubs being discriminated against – the French and the English – finally stood up to their bullying.
The fact is that the Italian clubs weaken the European Champions Cup by their very presence. Every other team must pray that they’ll get the Italians in their pool.
Even after two seasons of the new competition, the Pro12 hasn’t yet embraced the idea that leagues should be genuine meritocracies, where the best teams come out on top, and earn the biggest rewards.
Pro12 organisers should be beating a path to the Swiss door of European Professional Club Rugby, saying that they got it wrong when the Champions Cup was set up, and now want their top seven clubs to qualify by right.