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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Toulouse and Stade Francais, came from behind to win at Harlequins and Bath respectively. By then Northampton had finished a distant second in Perpignan and Gloucester a still more distant one in Biarritz.
Those English setbacks look all the poorer when measured against the qualified success of two of the Welsh regions, most notably Ospreys holding the nerve which deserted them at Leicester the previous week to see Clermont Auvergne off by the narrowest of margins after the Scarlets had made the most of their good fortune at being paired with the weakest of the six French contenders, Brive.
Perhaps 'Somebody Up There' has recognised that the Scarlets have suffered enough from more cruel breaks than anyone else in which event they can stick a pair of Sospans on top of the posts at the Stade de France to make them feel at home in Paris for the final next May.
While the Anglo-French results do nothing for the credibility of the Premiership's perennial self-promotion as the best national club competition, their clubs who have taken a hit will demand that scores are settled in the return fixtures during the New Year -- or else.
The consequence will almost certainly eliminate any realistic hope of extending their interest into the quarter-finals.
The same goes for a few from Le Championnat who have already spiked some English guns. Perpignan, for example, know they will have no margin for error when the pool stage resumes in December.
For the French champions, Thomond Park, a fortnight before Christmas marks the point of no return at a venue where no French team has won in the history of the Heineken.
It's not been for the want of trying and nobody has tried more often than Castres, beaten on all four visits. Perpignan and Bourgoin have been to Munster there three times, Stade Francais twice, Perpignan, Biarritz, Clermont Auvergne and Colomiers once.
After losing in Swansea, Clermont's future now rests on back-to-back ties against Leicester, each of the must-win category. French crowing about their autumnal beating of four English teams will look very hollow should the quarter-finals next April proceed without their champion team, Perpignan, and last season's runners-up, Clermont.
The English at least have ample time to ensure they have the last laugh, secure in the knowledge that their clubs have won the Heineken six times (Leicester Tigers 2, London Wasps 2, Bath and Northampton Saints) to France's four (Toulouse 3 and Brive).
Six French clubs have finished runners-up to one English, Leicester whose defeat by Leinster at Murrayfield last season was their third in the final.
The Heineken Cup team of the first two rounds reflects the winning start by Toulouse, Biarritz, Stade Francaise and, most of all, by the Scarlets. Their toppling of London Irish, a week after the Exiles had beaten Leinster on the opening night of their title defence, is reflected by the choice of four players.
It's been a tough call, especially with outstanding claims posted by, among others, Ospreys captain Ryan Jones, his Biarritz opposite number Imanol Harinordoquy, Stade's peerless Sergio Parisse, Treviso lock Cornelius van Zyl, Sale's prodigious youngster back row-cum-lock James Gaskell and the evergreen Tigers tighthead Julian White, still rolling them over at 36.
So, after pretty lengthy deliberation, and having been to three games in the opening two rounds and seen countless others on TV, my Heineken Cup team of the opening fortnight is:
15 Daniel Evans (Scarlets)
14 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique)
13 Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers)
12 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
11 Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
10 Shane Geraghty (Northampton Saints)
9 Julien Dupuy (Stade Français Paris)
1 Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers)
2 Matthew Rees (Scarlets)
3 Nicolas Mas (Perpignan)
4 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
5 Bob Casey (London Irish)
6 Gerrie Birtz (Perpignan)
8 David Lyons (Scarlets)
7 Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse)