Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
An improved Euro vision is needed to stop these routs
THE format of the Amlin Challenge Cup is in dire need of a serious revamp to avoid the competition becoming further devalued in coming seasons.
In its current incarnation, Europe’s second tier may as well be reduced to a one-game shout-out between the English and French sides in each pool to save teams going through the motions, as Worcester did at Sixways on Saturday to demolish Bizkaia Gernika 71-19 in a dead rubber.
Under the current set-up, despite Warriors scoring 61 points more than Perpignan and conceding 11 fewer over the course of the six pool matches, the Top 14 outfit progressed to the quarter-finals because they tallied three tries to Worcester’s one in their two encounters.
Warriors assistant coach Nigel Redman suggests the winner of each group should be the team that has performed the best against all of the protagonists, not just on the head-to-head record between the top two.
However, while that logic would have seen Worcester progress to the knock-out stages instead of Perpignan, it is still a flawed plan.
One of the main points of this competition is to encourage and stimulate the growth of rugby in the likes of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Romania, which is good for the sport as a whole.
Yet, if the format was changed to Redman’s suggestion, the likes of Saturday’s thrashing would become even more one-sided as the teams hopeful of qualification would begin to field full-strength sides in pursuit of top spot in the pool. The group minnows would then most likely be battered by 100-plus scorelines, which is good for no-one and would make the spectacle even more farcical.
While it is difficult to suggest a solution for the best way forward for this competition, the ERC powers-that-be need to think long and hard to come up with a vision for the future because the current offering is not working.
At Sixways on Saturday, Warriors rounded off their European campaign for this season by running in 11 tries against a game, but limited, Gernika outfit.
Worcester groundstaff and volunteers arrived early to remove snow from the pitch to ensure the game went ahead and the players rewarded their efforts with some eye-catching scores.
Braces from Josh Drauniniu, Errie Claassens and Nikki Walker, alongside scores from Danny Gray, who also converted eight of the 11 tries, Jake Abbott, Blair Cowan, Aleki Lutui and Ben Howard ensured Warriors wrapped up another one-sided success in Europe.
Warriors: Claassens 7 (Howard, 65, 7); Walker 6, Clarke 7, Short 6 (Stelling, 65, 7), Drauniniu 8; Gray 8, Arr 7 (Frost, 59, 7); Mullan 7, Hayes 7 (Lutui, 56, 8), O’Donnell 7, Schofield (Chris Jones, 65, 7), Gillies 8, Betty 7, Abbott 8 (Best, 65, 7), Cowan 7. Not used: Currie.
Referee: Cedric Marchat.