McGeechan slams Heineken pools

Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan has called for an overhaul of the current seeding system for the Heineken Cup.

He believes the current system is the reason for such uneven pools, leading to potential winners being eliminated before the knockout stages even begin, which in turn devalues Europe’s premier competition.

McGeehcan’s gripe comes just days before his side, the defending champions, battle it out in a pool containing Munster, winners in 2006, the Scarlets, four-time semi-finalists, and Clermont Auvergne, which has been dubbed as ‘the ultimate pool of death’.

At the same time weaker sides are faced with easier groups, and McGeechan feels the current structure is favouring the Celtic unions whose representatives qualify virtually automatically.

“We are supposed to be the No 1 seeds in this competition, so how can the top seeds get a draw like this?” McGeechan asked at the launch of this year’s tournament in Cardiff.

“Munster were champions in 2006, Llanelli semi-finalists last season and Clermont runners-up in the French championship. I am still trying to get my head around it. You have to ask questions about the way the seedings are arranged.”

The champions of each of the participating nations head each of the six pools. That guarantees Ireland, Wales and Scotland a top seed regardless of where they finish in the Magners League.

“People have asked how can you make it more competitive for the Celtic countries,” he said.

“One way is to say you have to earn your right to get into Europe by what you do in the Magners League. Their seedings should be based upon their final standings in that competition as they are in England and France and not as three separate unions as they are now.

“You want the best scenario and environment for what is the top competition. If that can reflect strengths then it is only going to take the whole thing forward.”

McGeechan is not the only one feeling aggrieved by the draw, Peter Wheeler, the chief executive of Leicester, also feels Leicester have been hard done by. Their group contains Toulouse, Leinster and Edinburgh.

“You can’t protect teams in a competition of this stature,” Wheeler said.

“You have got the best 20 teams in Europe. You don’t want a situation where two potential winners at a pool stage go out because you have got three potential winners in one group and none in another.”

Derek McGrath, the European Rugby Cup chief executive, said the seeding system was reviewed annually and that a report would be assessed by the board on November 22. He agreed that there were issues to be resolved.

“Yes, there is the perception that there are hard pools and some pools which are a lot easier,” he said.

“The Magners League idea is one way of thinking. You have to ask will it bring improvements. But you have to decide what is your objective in terms of improvement.

“The challenges we have across Europe, the well-known issues in Scotland and Italy, how they benchmark against other countries is one we have to balance. Do we take a meritocratic view, or the long-term view? At the moment we have taken the view that we have to be inclusive.”


365 Digital

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