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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.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 season Sale Sharks powered to glory in the PARKER PEN SHIELD, and England and Lions power back Jason Robinson lead the attacking line with a display of power, pace and guile that saw him freely scoring against some of the best defences in European rugby.
But this season, Sale have found the step up to Heineken Cup rugby difficult, finishing the pool stages bottom of Pool 3 win just one win and five defeats.
Robinson had conquered Rugby League, and had made a bid to conquer Union.
These days, the comings and goings between rugby league and rugby union are much more out in the open with players not having to pass through the equivalent of Checkpoint Charlie. Now it's much more a case of passing Go, waving to the cameras and collecting a decent cheque on the way. But despite the increasing number of code-crossers, you could count the number of players who have been genuinely great in both games in the last 20 years on the fingers of a mitten.
Jonathan Davies is one who successfully crossed the divide, and back again, but it is hard to make a case for anyone else who has played for a decent period in both codes. It is about time Davies had some company in his one-man social club and Jason Robinson could be the one to double the subscriptions if not the bar-takings. With 184 tries in the 13-man code, the 28-year-old has taken care of the league half of the deal.
Robinson's dramatic life change after playing the role of a young sporting bachelor to perfection whilst at Wigan has been well-documented and he is now the model professional athlete after a few years of 'clubbing, pubbing and wenching'.
He says: 'My life was a complete and utter mess. Everything happened so quickly I did not know what to do. All the people around me were players and lads whose only advice was 'let's have a drink'. You want to impress people around you. It's the one who can drink the most pints, who can get the most girls and who can drive the best car.
That's how you earned respect. I made the choice to change my life and I have never looked back. I am at peace with myself.'
He says he has not had a hangover now for six years and you believe him.
The cross to union has gone virtually seamlessly via Sale, England, the Lions and the Parker Pen Shield, which Robinson helped his club to win last year after an engrossing final against Pontypridd. Which is why his first match in the Heineken Cup probably came as a bit of a shock.
Drawn in a tough-looking group with Llanelli, Glasgow and Bourgoin, Sale opened up in October by entertaining the French side. It was not Robinson's finest moment although it started well with a try in the first minute but ended with a dead leg and a yellow card.
He says: 'It was eventful to say the least. A Bourgoin player took me out after I had kicked the ball, giving me a dead leg.' Later Robinson was yellow-carded when he became involved in a tussle for the ball with a French front rower.
'There was a bit of shirt pulling. The referee penalised me, gave a penalty try and sent me to the sin bin for the first time in 10 years.' Robinson had a chance to atone for his rare bad day a week later when Sale travelled to Glasgow but his wife Amanda went into labour. Robinson turned round and headed back to Lancashire where he was presented with an 8lb 8oz baby boy, Joseph Benjamin.
This is an extract from Rugby Europe, ERC's offical magazine...to find out how to be one of the first to read Rugby Europe...Click here
In his absence Sale lost 26-14. With defeat against a supercharged Llanelli in the third round of games, Sale's European campaign hit the buffers but the Manchester-based side are well positioned in the Premiership to earn another crack next season.
Meanwhile their full-back, who lined up at centre against the Welshmen, continues to develop his game at breakneck speed. He is the first to acknowledge he still has a lot to learn in union but with his basic attributes - pace, fearlessness under the high ball, a siege-gun boot out of defence and a sidestep to die for - he has a decent base from which to become a truly global superstar.
When Robinson has the ball, the crowd get to their feet in anticipation of some wondrous running. They may think he knows where he is going but he does not.
'I'm not the fastest player in union,' he explains, 'nor even the best full-back, but what I do have going for me is that I was never programmed. A lot of union players are - to do certain things in certain conditions. I don't claim to know everything about the game and I am engaged in a learning process.'
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