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Harlequins v Bath on Saturday was not much of an advert for Europe’s marquee event. Two English clubs in the lower reaches of their league engaging in a try-less, wet-weather scrap is not the ultimate vision for continental rugby.
The whole structure needs a rethink. The Champions Cup should be an elite tournament full of vibrant, high-class, cross-border competition, but it is feeling stale and flat and one-dimensional.
Perhaps that is inevitable in any season following a World Cup because the leading Test players are being gradually reintegrated by their clubs, but this doesn’t have the makings of a vintage campaign.
Harlequins’ victory over Bath on Saturday was not the greatest advert for European rugby
The captains of Gloucester, Exeter, Northampton, Sale, Quins and Bath pose with the trophy
Without wishing to single out Quins and Bath, qualifying for the event was a triumph but they don’t harbour realistic expectations of making an impact once they are in it. The same could be said for many other teams in this Champions Cup, especially the English contingent.
Gloucester rested several leading men on Sunday and it probably cost them a famous victory in Montpellier. Why not go there fully loaded, as a statement of grand ambition?
To send out so many back-up players was a strange act of surrender. The fact they came so close to an upset anyway is a tribute to those players, but the club hierarchy have not exuded a mood of bold intent. What a pity.
Gloucester coach Johan Ackermann defended opting to rest Danny Cipriani Ben Morgan
At least that was a proper Anglo-French fixture, which is surely the European vision – teams from different leagues locking horns in a quest for ultimate supremacy.
Too many ‘derbies’ between sides from the same country are devaluing the product. This season only Pool 4 has a true blend with Racing 92, Munster, Saracens and the Ospreys representing France, Ireland, England and Wales.
It doesn’t help that many French sides blow hot and cold in terms of the commitment they bring.
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