New Heineken ambassador Kenny Logan previews the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup
9 April 2009 16:22pm
The quarter finals of the Heineken Cup this weekend are sure to another showcase of all things that are good about the European game. This competition has become almost international level in standard, and the calibre of players turning out for their clubs this weekend is a case in point.
The eight teams who have progressed to the knock out stages know that they are just a couple of wins away from the finale of the European season, the final at Murrayfield. I know having played there many times that there is nothing like a big game atmosphere in Edinburgh, and every team will want to be there on the 23rd May.
Having said that, there is no way the players can be looking that far ahead. It's an old cliché but at this stage it's all about taking one game as it comes. There is an enormous amount of rugby to be played between now and the final, and looking down the list of teams, it is easy to make a case for each of them progressing to Murrayfield. Traditional powerhouses such as Leicester & Bath from England, perennial challengers Munster from Ireland, and the dangerous underdogs in the form of Cardiff & Ospreys from Wales, will all feel they have a shot. And that's before mentioning the merits of three times winners Toulouse, and the supposed underdogs Quins & Leinster, who are currently riding high in their respective domestic leagues.
It is disappointing that there are no Scottish teams in the quarter finals, and haven't been since Edinburgh five or six years ago. The game in Scotland is going through a tricky time at the moment with a disappointing 6 Nations and Frank Hadden's departure from the national team last week.
For me, the improvements need to start happening at a club level so that we get to the position where Edinburgh and Glasgow are regularly challenging for quarter final places. It's not so much that there is a lack of talent in the Scottish game as we do have some good players such as Euan Murray, Ross Ford, & the Evans brothers, perhaps more a mindset that needs to change . The Scottish sides have shown the ability to beat the bigger teams, such as Glasgow beating Toulouse this season, but we need to build on that to a position where we are competing for domestic honours. From there, I believe success and progression to the latter stages of knock out competitions such as the Heineken Cup will come.
I worry for the possible Scottish contingent in Ian McGeechan's Lions squad to be announced later this month. Players who are turning out in the Heineken Cup this weekend will invariably press a case for inclusion, whilst those turning out in the Celtic League will effectively be out of sight, 'out of mind'. It's got to hurt the chances of a large number of Scots making the touring party that they aren't turning out for the eight teams with their eyes on the Heineken Cup.
Kenny Logan is a Heineken ambassador. Heineken, the premium continental bier, are proud sponsors of the Heineken Cup until at least 2013 - for VIP tickets to the final visit www.heinekenrugby.co.uk.
The directors of ERC voted unanimously at a Board meeting to postpone all decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until 19 February next when the Board will meet again to reconsider the issue.