7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
MILES: In a nut-shell, the fixtures. We are getting used to them now because this is the 13th year of the competition but they are fixtures, certainly for people of my age growing up and watching rugby, that you wished you were able to watch.
These cross-border games are absolutely fantastic, because of the fact that they are not the week-in, week-out fixtures you see every year in domestic leagues.
That is the bottom line for the success of this competition, that it throws up unusual and exciting matches as well as players who enjoy the experience of coming up against opponents they wouldn't normally play, unless they are internationals, but even then, this is for their clubs.
From this year's 24 teams, who are your favourites to win the competition?
MILES: I honestly believe that it is absolutely wide open this year, perhaps more so than in any previous year, but wide open between the usual suspects.
Starting with France, you have to mention Stade Francais, who are most people's and the bookmaker's favourites, although not mine. They are a very difficult team to beat and I think they will go a long way, but I am not sure they are my favourites to win it.
Toulouse, after an off year in 2006/7, will be back and contending, particularly with the very good signing of Byron Kelleher. He will be a major plus for them and they have such depth of talent that you can't rule them out. I don't see them having another bad year this year; that doesn't happen for Toulouse.
Biarritz will not be far away either and on paper they, and Stade Francais, have attractive pools. That is a major plus for them. Toulouse face a fight to get out of their pool - I expect them to be stronger than last year - but I am not definitely saying that they will get out of that pool with Leicester, Leinster and Edinburgh.
Still in France, Clermont Auvergne are also not to be ruled out. They did not spend all that money just to win the French Championship. They have big ambitions and a pretty good squad, but whether they quite have the European nous yet, wel can only wait and see.
From elsewhere, Munster know what a scrap is all about and won't be far off. If they get of the pool, you never know with them, and they will be hard to beat. Leinster will be smarting from not having proved themselves in Europe before and have every incentive to do well.
From England you have Leicester and Wasps, as per normal, but I throw in Gloucester this year because they have strength in depth but again may not have the European pedigree as a squad and that may count against them.
On the same note, a side in the same pool as Gloucester, Ospreys, have spent money and have strength in depth, but do they have the European pedigree? We will find out.
That covers all of the teams that most will mention, but if forced to pick out one, I believe that at 8/1, Leicester represent a very good value bet to win the competition, albeit from a tough pool.
There is a lot of good value around though with Wasps and Munster listed at 18/1 - those long odds probably represent their tough pool, as does 22/1 for Clermont Auvergne. But if pushed, I just fancy Leicester.
You mention these tough pools; in any competition these days, be it a World Cup for football or rugby, or the Heineken Cup, there is always a so-called "Pool of Death". Which is it in this one?
MILES: The grim reaper is out all over the place this year. The beauty of this competition is that you get the mix and different flavours and different games and I think it is important that teams from the same nations are kept apart.
There are debates about seedings going on at the moment but, and I know there are seven English teams and so two of them will play each other (Bristol and Harlequins this year), teams from different nations must be kept apart because it is a policy that isn't failing.
This year it is not just Wasps, Clermont, Munster and Scarlets but there is also Leinster, Leicester, Toulouse and Edinburgh. And then you have Ospreys and Gloucester with Bourgoin - if they turn up - and Ulster, a very difficult team to beat at home. Stade, Bristol, Cardiff and Quins... there are difficult pools across the board.
We have all three Irish teams live on Sky Sports this weekend. How high is the expectation that falls on the shoulders of these provinces after such a terrible World Cup for their national side?
MILES: There is expectation for those on the outside but a great motivation from those on the inside to prove that they are not the players that we saw at the World Cup. They want to show that they are better than that and have a lot more to offer, for their provinces, and when international selection comes around in the New Year, for their country.
The incentive for the Irish provinces is massive anyway in the Heineken Cup, it is what matters most in Ireland for Munster, Leinster and Ulster, ranking above the Magners League. It is clear every year that the major eggs are put in the Heineken Cup basket.
The incentive is so great that it is hard to measure but they will, after the World Cup, have points to prove.
Where are you off to this weekend to watch your Heineken Cup rugby?
MILES: I am being sent to Coventry this weekend! On Saturday I will be watching the Wasps host Munster at the Ricoh and then on Sunday, game two for me is in Cardiff for the Blues against Bristol.
I think the Ricoh is a great stadium and although it won't be full, there will be a great atmosphere. There was about half of the capacity 32,000 for the semi-final between Wasps and Northampton last year and there was sufficient noise.
There will be more people there this year with Munster and their fans coming as we know how well they travel and how vocal they are. From a commercial point of view there would have been 10,000 at Adams Park and there will probably be 20,000 at the Ricoh; it makes good sense. It is a good arena commercially but also from a rugby perspective, it is a good place to play and watch the game.
The Blues talked about taking their game with Bristol to the Millennium Stadium but that wasn't possible in the end, although that too would have made good commercial sense.
I am not complaining though because the Arms Park is a great, traditional place to watch rugby. It is absolutely the right and modern thing for the Blues to move on to an agreed, purpose-built stadium with Cardiff City Football Club - they don't want to be left behind the Ospreys, who have already done that, or the Scarlets and Dragons who have similar plans.
This will be a great occasion though at the Arms Park; the Blues against the side from just over the water, Bristol. It is a great, old club game of British rugby from before professionalism and it is great that we have it back again in the Heineken Cup.