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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
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Happy New Year to you and here is hoping for a 2004 as exciting on the fields of rugby as 2003.
No World Cup of course but plenty of tension with England trying to secure back to back Grand Slams before the juicy highlight of the year, the three tests against the revenge-minded Kiwis and Wallabies.
Let us not wish January away however.
Four gripping weekends of Heineken Cup action await us with Gloucester versus Munster headlining the weekend. If the next fortnight of fixtures between these teams is half as exciting as last year's contest at Thomond Park, we are in for a treat.
Both these teams have found their way into that elusive soft spot in my heart. Both are fanatically supported and a thousand miles from the public school image of the game that still exists in some quarters.
Munster are passionate and proficient and along with Wasps, one of the best performers so far but they will need to be with a trip to Kingsholm awaiting them. The Cherry & Whites are desperate for revenge and confidence will not have been damaged by their away win at Leicester.
As for the Tigers, have they played a more important game since they last won the final? Sixteen points behind local rivals, Northampton, with just eight remaining games, they are not going to make the play-offs.
Europe is their only hope of glory but Ulster away is one of the toughest assignments in the tournament. It looks as if they lack the self- belief to win this one at Ravenhill, although this group is so tight, the group could be secured by the team which picks up bonus points away from home. At the very least, the Tigers need a point.
Away from Europe and returning to Premiership action on New Year Day, well done to referee, Ashley Rowden. Too many referees threaten the use of cards when a cynical sin binnable offence has been committed and do nothing, letting the ball killers and cheat thrive.
Rowden saved what could have been a dirge of a game between Saracens and Leeds by acting immediately and keeping both struggling teams honest. Here is to more referees using the card as effectively as Rowden - praise for a ref so early in the year? It's not a resolution, honestly!
Have a great weekend of rugby.