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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
With all the pulling power of Paris at its disposal, the glamour boys of French rugby are set to become the Toulouse of the 21st century when, rather than if, they make the breakthrough and become champions of Europe.
The allure for the best is becoming more alluring by the year and with many more occasions like Sunday's becoming the staple diet of Parisian rugby fans, it is not hard to see why comparisons are being made with Real Madrid.
On the first half's evidence this could be their year. Sale were overwhelmed but when the English champions kept the ball for any length of time, they were able to make Stade look a far less frightening proposition. Maybe this will not be the year of the Pink flowers.
In driving rain the game before, the current champions, Munster, made hard work of Cardiff Blues but even off form, I never doubted they had what was required to take the points. Paris had the prettiest rugby of the weekend but Munster are still the team to best.
Biarritz are the only side with 15 points but this is far more a reflection of the pool than any brilliance on their part. Playing way below their full capacity in Europe I can see them slipping again when they face opponents who force them into a gear with which they are unfamiliar in Europe.
Still, they are bound for a home quarter-final and cannot be written off whereas a few pens are scratching out the name of Toulouse after a narrow defeat in Wales. The signing of Gaffie Du Toit was a gamble that went desperately wrong for Toulouse and has left them needing probably maximum points from their two home games and an away win at London Irish to make it as a best runner up.
On current form the odds look long and if they do qualify they could end up with a journey to face San Sebastian, Paris or Cardiff where Munster might just pack out the temporary home of the Millenium Stadium. This tournament just gets better and better.
Leinster will need Brian O' Driscoll at his inspired best to beat an Agen side that were extremely competitive at Lansdowne Road while all eyes will venture to Toulouse for a rematch with the soaring Scarlets of West Wales. I hope you enjoy the weekend, I know I will.