The last, glorious hurrah?
October 11, 2013
One last time ... © PA Photos
Given the talk of recent weeks, a casual rugby fan might be forgiven for thinking that the Heineken Cup was an unloved competition on its last legs. But when the 19th and, sadly, probably last year of this prestigious tournament starts tonight it will captivate spectators and, in between the inevitable mismatches, provide some cracking rugby.
Those behind the new competition would like to give the impression what they are offering will be better and more appealing than what we have now. It won't. At best, assuming all the second-tier countries reluctantly join, it will be more of the same with a lot more hype and glitter.
Just as when the Football League Division One became the Premier League in 1992 the core product was exactly the same, so it will be next season. The only difference is that the English and French clubs will get a bigger share of the pie. And BT will get more rugby to show, albeit at quite a hefty cost to them.
What is certain is that the coming months will see more meetings, briefings, rumours and posturing. At the end of it there will be a European competition in 2014-15; the only unknowns are the format and the participants.
For now, forget the tedium of the politics and sit back and enjoy one of the world's most successful club competitions while it lasts.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Managing Editor, ESPN EMEA Digital Media
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra