So, what is looking increasingly like the final Heineken Cup is almost upon us. Having seen the arguments regarding qualification criteria put forward, you can have sympathy with both parties. Clearly, the English and French clubs argument that whilst they are busting a gut to get into the top 6 of the Aviva Premiership and Top14 and qualify for the Heineken Cup, all of the Rabodirect Pro12 (bar the bottom placed Welsh or Irish side)teams are guaranteed qualification is a big bone of contention. On the other hand, is it a genuine European competition or not? If a couple of the Six Nations countries rarely get their sides into it, that’s hardly going to help rugby development or crowd attendances in their country, is it? It’s a tough one, and I can’t see an easy way out of the problem.
It would be a crying shame if something didn’t get sorted. Players love the Heineken Cup, there’s always a real buzz in the week leading up to a game, with everyone getting really excited and desperate to be involved. The intensity in training really goes up a couple of notches.
This year, Cardiff Blues are in a group with Exeter, Glasgow Warriors & Toulon. With Toulon the current holders, Glasgow currently topping the Pro12 and Exeter in the top half of the Aviva, it’s going to be a pretty tough group to get out of but we’re just itching to get started. Having had a good win against Edinburgh in our last match, it’s nice to have a bit of momentum going into the first game.
Our first match is away at Exeter, and with my old Blues teammates Tom James and Ceri Sweeney now playing for the Chiefs, there will no doubt be a fair bit of banter before, during and after the game! I’m good mates with both Tom and Ceri, and Tom always used to do a fair amount of sledging in training so I imagine he’ll turn it up even more during a game. He’s been scoring a few tries for them but our wingers have also been doing the business – Alex Cuthbert in particular is scoring tries for fun - so we’ll have to see how it goes. I really don’t want this to be the end of European club rugby though…
Visit www.cardiffblues.com for ticket information and links to buy the new 2013/14 kit.
Watch the Heineken Cup this weekend on Sky. Use a NOW TV day pass if you are not a Sky Sport subsriber.