Heineken Cup
Warburton sympathises with Anglo-French stance
ESPN Staff
September 13, 2013
Sam Warburton on the charge in his club colours © PA Photos

British & Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton has agreed with claims the Heineken Cup qualification process is flawed.

Premiership Rugby and their French counterparts the Ligue de Nationale Rugby have long held misgivings over certain aspects of the Heineken Cup. They deem the qualification process and distribution of votes and revenue to be weighted in favour of the RaboDirect PRO12 clubs.

As things stand, the top six in the Premiership and the Top 14 gain entry to the Heineken Cup while one club in the PRO12 usually misses out on a spot in Europe's elite tournament. Such is the level of their frustration, PRL and LNR announced on Tuesday that they had put in place plans to start a breakaway tournament for the 2014-15 season.

European Rugby Cup Ltd - the body in charge of the Heienken Cup - have since claimed they are optimistic a compromise can be found over the future of the tournament but the Anglo-French alliance has stood firm and are adamant they will not take part in the Union-run tournament next term.

Warburton admits he can sympathise with the Anglo-French clubs' misgivings and says the qualification process should be altered.

"I can understand from the English and French point of view," Warburton told the BBC. "I do agree there should be a qualifying system from the Rabodirect. I don't think they should hand it out to each country, it should be the top six to qualify and it would make the Rabo more interesting.

"I can agree with the English and French perspective that there should be tougher qualification."

PRL CEO Mark McCafferty said on Thursday he had already received interest from teams outside of the Anglo-French Accord and Warburton is optimistic the Cardiff Blues will still be involved in a European tournament next term.

"Hopefully, whatever happens, the Cardiff Blues will be playing in the top tier of European rugby next season," Warburton added. "If that was the case, then at least the standard of the Rabo would be improved because there would have to be full teams.

"I have always said if all the top teams fielded their best sides in the Rabo, it would be a competitive and great league. So there are pros and cons and hopefully the Blues will remain in Europe somehow. I cannot really imagine it happening and I am sure something will be worked out - and that the regions will play European rugby and I hope that is the case."

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