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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
The Parker Pen Challenge Cup has carved a niche for itself and Saturday's climax stands as an occasion in its own right, rather than just a prelude to the Heineken Cup final.
England and France have dominated the tournament, but that's almost inevitable due to the depleted entry from the Celtic nations. Quins are bidding to get their name on the roll of honour for the second time and become the fourth consecutive English victor, French teams having won the event on its previous four runnings, including Montferrand's triumph in 1999.
The Parker Pen is a really strong competition now.
The Parker Pen will never be the Heineken Cup, but the fact that winning the trophy gains you entry to the senior European competition is the key element to its success. Sides set off with entry into `the big league` in mind but when you get to this stage, the final, first and foremost is the thought of winning a piece of silverware.
These teams are playing in a Cup final, Heineken Cup qualification is a massive added bonus.
I'm excited by Montferrand, they could have put Bath away at The Rec in the first leg of their semi-final. Not many sides have gone there this season and looked as strong as the French club. They have a very powerful game, a team littered with stars and would certainly not disgrace the Heineken Cup.
Quins are also an impressive outfit and I feel both sides would have ambitions of at least reaching the last eight of the Heineken, should they win through on Saturday.
Montferrand have mighty financial backing, while Quins have an ever improving stadium and a growing support base. In every respect these clubs are in a position to go on to the next level of European rugby.
The Parker Pen final returns to what has become almost its spiritual home - the Madejski Stadium. This is the third time the competition's climax has been held in Reading, with Quins having fond memories of the 2001 final victory over Narbonne.
It's a great venue, with good viewing positions all around. If I was writing for `Architects Weekly` I would say it has `clean lines.` When London Irish pack it out for their St Patrick's day fixture it's buzzing and I expect another huge crowd on Saturday for what should a be a really thrilling, close match.