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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Last Saturday's pulsating pool stage game between Toulouse and the Scarlets may not have been the most technically refined of contests but for attacking commitment, thrills, spills and sheer determination - on the part of the West Walians - it was something of an epic.
I was watching the game in the Sky TV truck in the shadow of Thomond Park. Watching the game on a bank of screens, it is impossible to forget that rugby is a career, and so, the analytical eye takes an unwelcome command.
The deficiencies of Toulouse cannot be ignored. Again the evidence of a declining empire was all too obvious but I tried to make a leap and place myself in a Llanelli pub. I would have been screaming with excitement and walked out drained - and probably with a stagger. From a pure supporters' perspective this was magnificent. I felt the same way when Bristol won a far less flowing Premiership game with Gloucester.
I write this because we are constantly being told what the role of club and regional rugby is in the development of the national team and I am becoming more and more frustrated that the voices at the top do not get it.
The community based side is almost as important as the national team. Of course, the World Cup is by some distance the pinnacle but that is a four yearly event. The Heineken Cup is yearly and every bit as thrilling as an international if you are committed to your side.
Memories of Munster's emotional day in Cardiff more than matched the ecstasy of England's fans who celebrated long into the Sydney night in 2003. Who is to say one is more important than another?
We must get away from this flawed argument of club versus country and realise both sectors are of immense value. The relegation issue is a compelling strength of the English game. It keeps club rugby competitive and keeps fans rapt when their team - or nation - is failing.
It is not emulation of another system required by France and England but an intelligent understanding of the balance needed to maintain both strata of the sport. Rob Andrew will be under the spotlight when he makes his recommendation for the next manager of England Wednesday but in the long term his ability, or otherwise, to reshape the argument and turn it into a debate is what will determine the success of his regime. A strong England or France at the expense of the club game will be detrimental to the future of the sport every bit as a vibrant club game which leaves international rugby in those countries on their knees. In the spirit of the season we need some smart thinking and reconciliation because that match in Toulouse was a reminder of the precious magic of community based rugby. It is something missing in the other hemisphere and something we would be foolish to give away.