Edinburgh Rugby coach Michael Bradley has accused English and French clubs of “posturing” amidst threats to pull out of the Heineken European Cup if entry qualification is not revised in 2014.
Stakes have been raised by a formal approach to organisers arguing that there should be no automatic passage into the competition and that the Rabo Direct Pro 12 should be used as a qualifier – a situation highlighted again this week by English Premiership chief executive Mark McCafferty.
If calls for a 20-team event, which will be the subject of a meeting in Dublin on September 18, had been introduced this season Scotland’s involvement would be halved and Italy would have none.
Speaking ahead of Edinburgh’s final pre-season friendly at Murrayfield tonight against former Euro winners Northampton Saints, Bradley said: “For me it is a bit of posturing more than anything else and I would hope they wouldn’t change the format.”
And Bradley backed up that assertion, saying: “They have boycotted before (’98-99) and the competition did quite well; Ulster would thank them for it as they won it that year!”
On the tournament’s popularity Bradley said: “It has a broad appeal across all the Tier One nations in Europe and why would you look to change that?
“What are you gaining by tinkering with the format of a competition that has gone from strength to strength?
“We reached the semi-final last year and there was huge excitement.
“Italian sides will be looking to do that, the Welsh haven’t been there for a while. The Irish love it and have been consistently there. The Premiership, you could argue, are struggling at the moment to get consistent levels of participation.
“If Italy or Scotland, for argument’s sake, didn’t have Heineken Cup rugby that would take from the game as a whole.
“Players who might not play internationals do enjoy something that makes them feel they are representing their country when playing for their club.”
On tonight’s match, which evokes memories of a stunning Heineken Cup meeting between the teams two years ago which Edinburgh lost 31-27 after scoring three first-half tries, Bradley said: “Northampton did very well against Leinster last week in terms of the score, getting seven tries.
“They are going to be a formidable force. It will be nice to test ourselves against that quality of opposition.
“We have Tom Brown back after his first cap – there is plenty on show.”
All Black Ben Atiga will have a late fitness test to determine whether he makes a debut and Welsh prop John Yapp also makes a first start having missed the opening friendly at Newcastle.
Bradley added: “We will give Ben right up to the game to see how he recovers from a hip flexor injury.”
Edinburgh: Tom Brown, Mike Penn, Greg Tonks, Ben Atiga or John Houston, Sep Visser, Gregor Hunter, Richie Rees, John Yapp, Andy Titterell, Willem Nel, Perry Parker, Steven Turnbull, Dimitri Basilaia, Netani Talei, Roddy Grant (captain). Subs: Alun Walker, Robin Hislop, Lewis Niven, Sean Cox, Robert McAlpine, Hamish Watson, Chris Leck, John Houston, Jamie Farndale, Dougie Fife, James King.