AS THE ROW over the future of European club competition rumbles on, a part of us begins to think that the world might not be so bad if the continent’s premier rugby tournament is renamed, overhauled and given a new owner.
At the same time, though, Irish players lucky enough to have won a Heineken Cup medal must be looking down wondering just how rare these trinkets might become – or whether they’ll need to explain its importance in a decade.
In 18 years, Ireland have six victories, the equal of England and France. It’s an impressive strike rate in such a fiercely contested competition.
Should the premier club competition as we know it cease to exist, however, a new tournament would kick off without a history. A clean slate and a world where Saracens, Harlequins and Racing Metro don’t have to defer to Ulster, Munster and Leinster’s history.
Jamie Heaslip has three Heineken Cup medals (and one from the Challenge Cup), his is a career built upon what he has achieved under the ERC banner. Yet the way things stand at the moment, he has no control over this element of his future. Instead, the men in suits hold the keys.
Yesterday, after Ireland’s training camp, Heaslip was asked if his achievements would feel slightly diminished if the trophy he lifted three times in four years no longer existed.
“Not at all. Our accomplishments in Europe is there, it’s done,” came his emphatic response. However, his next sentences had no such certainty, but they did seem to echo his CEO, Mick Dawson in suggesting that either the existing or the new competition would do just fine:
“Obviously, going forward we want to be competing in some sort of European competition.
“There’s not a lot we can do, it’s all down to people behind the scenes to sit down and get something sorted.
It’s been a great competition and I’ve loved playing in it over the years, I think the support it gets, especially from Irish fans is amazing.
When you meet other provinces what would be a big derby game anyway, just mushrooms in Europe. We’ve had a great relationship with the competition, but going forward we can only focus on whatever the next game is and keeping up the standard that got us in here.”
Heaslip’s latter comments were an echo of Paul O’Connell, himself a double European champion:
“It’s obviously a big concern but there isn’t a lot we can do about it, and there isn’t a lot we know about it either.
“Obviously there are administrators working on it at the moment and hopefully they’re trying to save the competition in some shape or form. I’ve been asked a lot about it recently, but the fact is that I don’t know a lot of the detail about it.
“So it’s not worth worrying about it from my point of view, you’ve just got to hope the right people make the right decisions, and they’re beneficial for everyone in European rugby.”