Welsh regions lagging behind

Fri, 13 Dec 2013 07:46
Large gareth davies cardiff try

Wales have been the dominant nation in the northern hemisphere, but it is another matter when it comes to the Welsh regions in the European Cup.

Wales have been the dominant nation in the northern hemisphere, but it is another matter when it comes to the Welsh regions in the European Cup.

Winning the 2013 Six Nations was Wales' fourth in eight years, the team also finished fourth in the 2011 World Cup and went on to provide the bulk of the British and Irish Lions squad for the winning tour of Australia last summer.

While Cardiff made the final of the very first European Cup, going down to Toulouse in 1996, Welsh regions have suffered since.

The Blues made the semifinal in 2009 and quarterfinals in 2012 and 2008, the latter the last season the Ospreys also progressed into the knock-out phases, while Scarlets made a semifinal in 2007. Newport-Gwent Dragons have never made it out of the pool phase and are currently competing in the second-tier Challenge Cup.

On the other hand, England (Leicester (2), Wasps (2), Bath, Northampton), France (Toulouse (4), Brive, Toulon) and Ireland (Leinster (3), Munster (2), Ulster) have provided six European Cup winners apiece.

This season promises to be no different, with just the six pool winners and two best runners-up guaranteed to get through to the knock-out phase.

Cardiff Blues, who travel to Glasgow on Friday, sit second in their pool, one point behind defending European champions Toulon.

Ospreys, who host French champions Castres, are already out of the hunt, with just one point from three straight defeats in a pool that also includes Leinster and English heavyweights Northampton.

Scarlets are also unlikely to make it out of their pool, with Clermont and Harlequins ahead of them, and big-spending Racing-Metro promising a revival.

"It is an exciting game and if we can win it will open things up and be great for our campaign," Blues scrumhalf Lloyd Williams said of the game against Glasgow, whom they beat 29-20 at home last weekend.

"We can take confidence from last week. They came at us all guns blazing and the fact we won gives us confidence we can do a job up north."

Ospreys coaches admitted they were left "gutted" after being cut adrift 12 points behind Pool One leaders Leinster following their 15-9 loss to Castres last week.

"We want to give it a real crack on Friday night," said forwards coach Chris Gibbes.

"We want to be competitive. We believe we are good enough to win that game."

Scarlets coach Simon Easterby, the former Ireland flank, said the goal for his team in Llanelli on Saturday was simple: a victory.

"We've got to win. It's as simple as that," Easterby said, conceding of Clermont: "They're a fantastic force when they get the momentum.

"We were competing against a side who have far bigger budgets than we have for 45-50 minutes, then they upped the tempo a little bit and we couldn't hang on to them."

The backdrop to this season's travails is the war being waged between the four regions and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) over their respective futures amid the proposed break-up of the current European Cup structure.

All parties met up on Wednesday but talks on funding, the exodus of Welsh players and an Anglo-Welsh league ended with no deal being agreed - but further talks planned.

The regions have told the WRU that they'd prefer to play in a new Anglo-Welsh league next season rather than be forced by the WRU to compete in a re-jigged European Cup, saying they could even take legal action to push their desire through.

"At this key moment for rugby in Wales the WRU continues to work hard in the best interests of Welsh rugby as a whole," the WRU said after the talks.

"It would be unfair on the fans, the players and all of Welsh rugby to make any further speculative comment at this time."

But the WRU added it was hopeful that the regions would continue with the two-party "Participation Agreement" by the December 31 deadline. Missing that would mean losing funding of up to £16.5m a year, and the regions likely pursuing legal avenues.

AFP

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sun, 26 February 2017
Bristol v Bath 11h00 Ashton Gate
Wasps v Gloucester 12h30 Ricoh Arena
Zebre v Ulster 12h30 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Treviso v Connacht 12h30 Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 13h05 Liberty Stadium
England v Italy 15h00 Twickenham Stadium
Mon, 27 February 2017
UCT-Ikeys v Maties 14h45 Cape Town
UWC v TUT 16h30 Cape Town
Rhodes v Fort Hare 16h30 Grahamstown
CUT-Ixias v UJ 16h30 Bloemfontein
CPUT v UKZN-Impi 16h30 Cape Town
UP-Tuks v Wits 16h30 Pretoria
Shimlas v NWU-Pukke 17h00 Bloemfontein
Thu, 02 March 2017
Force v Reds 10h30 Perth
Fri, 03 March 2017
Chiefs v Blues 06h35 Hamilton
Connacht v Zebre 19h35 Ascoli Piceno
Ulster v Treviso 19h35 Kingspan Stadium
Edinburgh v Ospreys 19h35 Myreside
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 20h15 AJ Bell Stadium
Sat, 04 March 2017
Hurricanes v Rebels 04h15 Wellington
Highlanders v Crusaders 06h45 Dunedin
Brumbies v Sharks 08h45 Canberra
Sunwolves v Kings 10h55 Singapore
Lions v Waratahs 13h05 Johannesburg
Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs 15h00 Welford Road
Glasgow Warriors v Dragons 15h00 Scotstoun Stadium
Worcester Warriors v Bristol 15h00 Sixways
Bath v Wasps 15h00 Recreation Ground
Gloucester v Harlequins 15h00 Kingsholm
Stormers v Jaguares 15h15 Cape Town
Cardiff Blues v Munster 17h15 BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park
Cheetahs v Bulls 17h30 Bloemfontein
Leinster v Scarlets 19h35 RDS Arena
EUROPEAN CUP
MORE LOGS
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 5 0 1 24
Glasgow Warriors 6 4 0 2 19
Leicester Tigers 6 2 0 4 8
Racing Metro 6 1 0 5 5
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Wasps 6 4 1 1 22
Toulouse 6 3 2 1 18
Connacht 6 4 0 2 18
Zebre 6 0 0 6 0
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 6 5 1 0 24
Toulon 6 3 0 3 16
Scarlets 6 2 1 3 11
Sale Sharks 6 1 0 5 4
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 4 1 1 23
Montpellier 6 3 0 3 16
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Northampton Saints 6 2 0 4 9
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 26
Bordeaux 6 3 0 3 14
Exeter Chiefs 6 2 0 4 12
Ulster 6 2 0 4 10