Wilkinson hopeful over Heineken Cup compromise
September 18, 2013
Jonny Wilkinson lifts the 2013 Heineken Cup © Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson has admitted it would be an "incredible shame" if the Heineken Cup was not to continue beyond the end of this season.
Wilkinson won the Heineken Cup with Toulon last season but they could end up being one of the last winners of the historic tournament if the six Unions which make up European Rugby Cup Ltd fail to find a compromise over the future of the tournament.
Premiership Rugby (PRL) and Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) both seem adamant they see their respective futures in the breakaway club-run European tournament which was proposed last week. ERC is still optimistic some compromise can be found and will host a meeting in October with the different stakeholders in the Heineken Cup invited to attend.
The main issues PRL and LNR have with the Heineken Cup revolve around the distribution of votes, revenue and the qualification process. They also want the tournament reduced from 24 to 20 teams. As things stand, both LNR and PRL are adamant they will not take part in the Heineken Cup next season but Wilkinson is hopeful an agreement can be reached.
"It would be an incredible shame if we weren't able to compete in the Heineken Cup which is, effectively, the World Cup for European clubs," Wilkinson told the London Evening Standard. "Having fought like mad while at Newcastle and twice managing to get into the Cup, and reaching a quarter-final in Paris and having a couple of goes here at Toulon, just makes you realise what an event it is for Northern Hemisphere rugby.
"Going to the quarter-final, semis and the final with Toulon reminded me so much of that World Cup experience where you have media in the week and stadium visits. It's a fabulous thing and the more people who can experience it, the better. However, if there is unhappiness and unrest then it needs to be sorted out and long may the competition continue."
Wilkinson's Toulon contract is up at the end of the season and he will make a decision on his future around Christmas time over whether he will play on for another year. He added: "I have been fortunate to win the World Cup and then enjoy a Heineken Cup triumph with Toulon, doing something I love.
"You do wonder, 'how do I give something like this up?' But I know the end is going to come at some point and it's understanding how you want to go out and the key for me is to be still improving. I still feel I am getting better and am trying to get back to where I was before I hurt my knee in 2008. I have started to find a way and with that comes more enjoyment.
"It is tough to plan ahead when you feel like this. I recognise there is a damage going too far in terms of your time, your reputation and your physical health and planning ahead is very hard. Last season I left it fairly late before telling Toulon that I wanted to continue and I wouldn't expect to be given that again. In December, when the club are looking for answers about your plans, you need a plan in your head."
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