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Published: 09:07 | 6/10/16

Champions Cup need Irish provinces - EPCR chief


European Rugby Champions Cup director general Vincent Gaillard is keen to see the Irish provinces challenge for the honours once again.

Disagreements over the structure of the competition resulted in the Heineken Cup being replaced by the Champions Cup with the top seven teams qualifying based on their performance in the PRO12.

Since the introduction of the Champions Cup, French and English clubs have stamped their authority on the competition with last year's final the fourth in succession not to feature a Guinness PRO12 club.

Irish provinces dominated the Heineken Cup from 2005 to 2012 with Leinster winning three titles to Munster's two, but no Irish side qualified for the quarter-finals last year and Gaillard believes the provinces are needed in order for the competition to succeed.

“I hope (Anglo-French dominance) will be broken. We definitely want to see the Irish provinces coming back strong," Gaillard is quoted as saying in the Irish Examiner.

"Our chairman Simon Halliday met them a few weeks ago to try discuss where they were and I think it’s fair to say they are looking at themselves first of all. It was absolutely not about blaming the new format or the new competition. It was about ‘we need to get it right, we need to get better, we need to deserve to be back’.

“It’s no longer 24 spots, it’s 20 now, so the level is higher. I think they are on the case and we certainly all hope the Irish provinces will be back in the game. Absolutely we do, and the Welsh and the Scots for that matter, but the Irish for sure.”

Gaillard added: "We want a truly European tournament. We want the Irish to be successful.

“Is there imbalance here and there because of the money floating back into the Leagues? Certainly. But is the format of our competition preventing provinces from being strong? Absolutely not, and it’s in no-one’s interest for the competition to end up as a French or English (tournament), absolutely not.”

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