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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
As I look back at this year's Heineken Cup, the final three matches really stand out. You don't get better games than the two semi-finals and the final. Those three games had everything - skill, determination, passion and drama.
And the way the Heineken Cup was won was really quite incredible, an unbelievable climax to a cracking season. It was almost a fairytale and you had to rub your eyes to check it wasn't a dream.
From my point of view it was frustrating not be involved in the later stages of the competition. I missed the buzz, the build-up, the pressure and the excitement and it is something I would love to be involved with again.
WHAT A MATCH!
The Heineken Cup final between London Wasps and Toulouse was developing into a fantastic match in the first half, with Wasps playing a controlled and structured game and Toulouse playing the style that every-body knew they could play but no one expected them too. It was very flamboyant, almost carefree.
As we went into half-time with Toulouse slightly trailing, I felt at that time that it would be a travesty if Toulouse were to lose playing the way they were.
But the match didn't unfold quite how we might have expected. In the second half Toulouse started to play within themselves and eventually lost to Rob Howley's bizarre last-minute try.
Before the game kicked off, I felt Toulouse had the stronger bench and, if they used it wisely enough, probably would have the edge - particularly considering the heat and the conditions of the day.
But it didn't work out like that. Around the time that Lawrence Dallaglio was sin binned, Guy Noves chose to make four substitutions.
I felt this was an ill conceived idea as the changes only seemed to disrupt the side at a time when they could have got on top with their one man advantage. I could see the benefit of bringing on Isitolo Maka, but not the other changes at that time.
I believe the decision of Warren Gatland not to make any changes spoke volumes about the lack of depth in the squad, but also about his confidence in the ability of the 15 on the park to do the job and last the full 80 minutes.
There is no doubt about it, the stars in the London Wasps pack are their back five. Each and every one is class and they proved it again on Sunday.
In the backline, I thought Stuart Abbott had an excellent game, both in defence and attack. Alex King marshalled the line well. But Rob Howley was the player who really shone, not least for his last-gasp try.
For Toulouse, the back row was as effective as ever, but they had problems at half back. I thought Michalak was poor and Delaigue made the wrong decisions time and time again in terms of getting the backline moving.
IN THE COACHES' SHOES
If I were in Guy Noves' shoes I would treat the players delicately for a couple of days until emotions dry up a bit. I certainly wouldn't say anything to them until the get together to do analysis, and, on this occasion, I would ask them to be a little self critical due to the manner of the loss.
Guy Noves will say to Poitrenaud to put the incident behind him, never let it happen again, learn from it and move forward.
The incident with Poitrenaud would have hurt no-one more than the player himself. It's very disappointing when you made a mistake of that nature. And now people will be questioning his ability to play at the top level. However, you only have to look at him to realise he has tremendous ability.
This was just a one-off situation. He was obviously thinking the ball was either going to roll out or roll on and go dead - in his defence a similar thing had happened five minutes earlier with Frederic Michalak.
But credit to Rob Howley. There was only a 20 per cent chance of him scoring, but through his determination he did so and won the match for his side.
Poitrenaud will be kicking himself for the mistake he made, but Toulouse missed a number of chances to score throughout the game, and I think the game could have swung either way But, on this occasion, the rub of the green went the way of Wasps.
THE BEST TEAM WON
In the end I think the best team of the year has raised the Heineken Cup.
Last season Wasps were champions of England and the winners of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup, and have been the most successful side in Europe over the past twelve months principally because they have a stable structure, not dissimilar to Toulouse.
The side that played this weekend had a number of players who have been with the club for at least seven years, and to keep that team together, to keep building a spirit and a general understanding between each and everyone, that bodes well for them in the future.