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Heinken Cup fight is like Braveheart, says Saracens wing David Strettle

Saracens wing David Strettle runs in his team's second try against Gloucester. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images Saracens wing David Strettle runs in his team's second try against Gloucester. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Friday, January 10, 2014
2:07 PM

Saracens winger David Strettle says the infighting in European rugby feels like the plot of Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart.

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The 30-year-old was yesterday left out of the 25-man England Six Nations squad, despite scored his eighth league try of the season in a record 29-8 win at Gloucester on Saturday to remain the Premiership’s top marksman.

It also helped Sarries stay top of the table and they now turn their attention to the Heineken Cup and a trip to four-time champions Toulouse on Sunday.

A win would put the Men in Black in control of Pool 3, with one foot in the quarter-finals, while defeaat could mean they fail to progress.

But, either way, Sarries’ participation in a European Rugby Cup (ERC)-led tournament looks as if it will end this season as the English clubs plan to start a rival competition, the Rugby Champions Cup, in a bid for fairer qualification and revenue distribution.

“We’re playing in a competition that we might not be in next year,” Strettle said. “If anything it gives you more impetus to win it.

“Some lads might retire at the end of next year or this year and it may be the last chance to compete, let alone win it.

“Everything seems to be changing. There are allegiances here and there – it’s like watching Braveheart because in every country you’ve not just got one [governing] body.

“It makes interesting viewing and reading for fans to see what is going to happen but, at the same time, I think a lot of fans do love the Heineken Cup. It allows them to watch their team play on the biggest club platform.”

Strettle added: “I don’t think many fans want the Heineken Cup to go because they see that as the pinnacle.

“But, if they can have it replaced with something that is just as good for them as a spectator, then they’ll be just as happy.

“As I understand it, it’s about getting to a basis where everyone compromises, but you know what they say – a compromise is never the best situation for anyone.”

Hope has, however, surfaced this week as it is understood that the International Rugby Board will made a last-ditch bid to salvage the Heineken Cup’s future by calling all six top unions and relevant club bodies to a summit meeting.

The IRB have so far kept quiet over the dispute and no meeting are yet planned but they finally made their position clear by issuing a statement on Wednesday night.

The IRB pledged to fight for the “establishment of a truly representative pan-European rugby competition that fully complies with IRB regulations”.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “In order to reach an outcome that is in the best interests of rugby globally, the IRB will work actively with its unions towards the goal of achieving a unified and acceptable outcome for all stakeholders involved.”

The RFU and Premiership Rugby (PRL) both threw their weight behind the IRB intervention, building fresh hope for a resolution.

But PRL reasserted their own commitment to a full Europe-wide resolution.

A Premiership Rugby spokesman said: “Over the last 18 months we have repeatedly made several different proposals for a pan-European rugby competition.

“These have even included a third-tier competition for developing nations, all of which benefit the whole of European club rugby.

“The clubs clearly understand any cross-border competition must be put before the unions of the regions, provinces and clubs participating.”

The RFU are clear on prioritising a swift solution to include all six frontline European countries in a revamped competition.

RFU chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Our primary focus should be to maintain a genuinely pan-European tournament.

“Rest assured I am working closely with RFU CEO Ian Ritchie and other stakeholders to find a solution.

“I welcome the support of the IRB in helping to ensure that this happens and of course as a member union abide by and support the IRB regulations.”

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