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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Clermont through to first ever Heineken Cup Final after tense win over Munster

Clermont will face Toulon in the final of the Heineken Cup after a tense 16-10 victory over Munster at the Stade de la Mosson on Saturday. It will be their first ever Heineken Cup final in what in what will be a closely fought all French affair in Dublin.

Clermont looked in control for a large part of the game after having scored a stunning try early on through powerful winger Napolioni Nalaga. Munster couldn't stop the powerful French outfit extending their lead, as Morgan Parra slotted three penalties in total, taking the gap out to 16-3.

Two-time former champions Munster came back late in the piece though as Denis Hurley got on the end of a well placed Ronan O'Gara stab through. It wasn't enough however and all hopes of a dramatic comeback were snuffed out by the might of this very impressive Clermont side.

On a weekend where veteran number tens shone, it would have been fitting if O'Gara had somehow manufactured a victory for his side, but as it was there were tears in the end and it was perhaps the last time we'll see him grace the tournament.

He said that he wasn't focussing on himself but would give it till the end of the season to decide whether he will hang up his boots of play another season with Munster.

Lee Byrne was delighted with the victory, but also paid tribute to the courageous effort from the visitors. "It is a dream come true for me to finally reach a Heineken Cup final. But you can't take anything away from Munster - they wore their famous red jersey with real pride," he said.

Clermont will face Toulon in the Heineken Cup Final in Dublin on May 18th, kickoff at 17:00 local.

Below are both tries and on the next page you can view emotional interviews with victorious Byrne and Nathan Hines, as well as distraught O'Gara and Paul O'Connell.

Page: 12View All

Posted by Rugbydump at 5:16 pm | View Comments (75)

Posted in Heineken Cup

Viewing 75 comments

mise April 28, 2013 11:40 pm

finally the big big budgets in France are starting to work at H cup level:

these 2 finalists have budgets many multiples of munsters...and yet, that second kick through almost yielded a try near the end for munster, and you know o gard would have converted for 16-17.

Ah well. The man-cityification of rugby rolls relentlessly on.

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Colombes April 29, 2013 11:02 am

thx for the comment,
Comparing Clermont with Man-City perfectly epitomises that few (not all) fans ignorance towards french rugby and top14 in general.

U blame the salary cap? just like Cockerill, well, it's not top14 problem, but a premiership one
U think Clermont and Toulon are a marketing thing, these 2 clubs are 100 years old, with a big and passionate fan basis. Not like Saracens unable to gather moire than 20000 fans in Twickenham...
U think Clermont and Toulon doesn't represent the rugby valors of suffering? Well,Clermont had to be 10 times in TOp14 finals before to win it, and slowly but surely progress inHcup.... When Toulon had to come back from Pro-D2 thx to Boudjellal personnal finance efforts

I can understand after-match bitterness and jealousy, but a bit of objectivity should be welcome. Rugby trolls relentlessly rolling on...

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matt April 29, 2013 2:49 pm

All this french rugby history is all very interesting (meant genuinely), but it completely avoids the issue a lot of UK teams feel; the huge budgets lead to an unfair playing field. I take you point about club attendance in parts of England being worse than in parts of France, but even if Saracens were able to fill Twickenham every week with souvenir buying fans, they will still only have a maximum of £4.26 million to spend on players. Where as Toulon have a budget of roughly £16m.
History and all else aside, if the other clubs in the H cup were allowed to spend this much, there would be rich owners stepping in here too to have a crack at winning cups.

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Moqxo April 29, 2013 3:15 pm

Matt, You cannot compare a salary cap and a budget, the salary cap for top 14 is about £7.3M for this year, and will be raised to £8.4 next season and won't be increased for the 2 next years.

It stills represents the double and your comment is relevant, but inaccurate.

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 3:35 pm

So I guess we should all abide by the same rules, to be fair, don't we?
The next question being what are the better rules/system...

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matt April 30, 2013 12:46 am

We should all abide by the same rules, and currently we don't, financially any way. As I say later on it is a sore point here in the UK, but it isn't the fault of the French that we're still trying to play our league in a quasi amateur manner.

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Colombes April 29, 2013 3:58 pm

We all want a more equitable H Cup

But i don't think money is the major problem as french clubs hadn't been in final since 3 years...

In France, the Salary Cap is superior for many reasons:

Firstly, the success of rugby since the RWC 2007 attract big attendance, and more families (when the football is sometimes despised for some hooligans ambiance)... So the clubs earn more money

Then, the mecenes and brands are quite interested by rugby "vogue" and values... so they invest money in clubs (Michelin, EADS, Renault, etc...)

Thus, the competition becomes harder and clubs wants to buy more players to anticipate any injuries avalanche.... with a perverse efect on this last point: clubs sometimes forget formation, prefering to beg on "experienced" SH players, than fragile french youngsters...
But on this last point, since the bad french results in the last 6N's and Toulouse lack of "jeu à la toulousaine"... agreements will impose quotas of young french players in every top14 clubs. I'm quite favourable with this future regulation which will raise the salary cap in order to launch new french players without handicaping the business model of clubs like Toulon and Clermont.

But at the end, is it the foul of french rugby if the celt and british feds don't want to attract a new public or new investors? Nop... But i've got the feeling that the future RWC 2015 can be a turning point in british rugby institutions.

Wait and see

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 11:13 am

Clermont was created in 1911 and is in the French 1st division (now Top 14) since 1925. Though one must admit that money is a key to stay at this level:

In the French league, all clubs can go down divisions. The 2 last (13th and 14th ranked) clubs go to the 2nd division (Pro D2) and only the 6 (or 7) firsts access the Hcup, which contrarily to Irish club system puts a high pressure on your local league results. Whereas 3 or 4 (all) Irish clubs are automatically qualified. That is what triggers the run to high budgets in France.
I'm not saying which one is better system, and there is a debate here whether French club should adopt the Irish provincial system.

Toulon has a big rugby history as well, and only injecting money in the club was not the only key to success. Example: Racing-Metro 92 and Saracens have a moderate fan basis, which might explain why their success is limited (I like to think the XVIth man is real important in rugby).
But don't worry, the Frenchmen do not worship euro bills. And actually a lot of French supporters despise Toulon for several reasons: it could be their money (though I think that is called jealousy), it could be for their supporters who whistle every single kick attempt of the opposite side or any referee decision (but they call this their rugby culture), or it could be for their president Mourad Boudjellal who also can easily spit on refereeing (see the "refereeing sod*my") or anything he may not like/agree with.

Hmmm I think I slightly digressed here, but at least you now know more about French rugby.

An Auvergnat supporter.

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ConnachtMan April 29, 2013 3:33 pm

LOL, Poor suffering Munster, cry me a river, you were beaten by the better team, Earls is not a winger or centre, not Clermonts fault he cant understand the finesse of backplay, and as a Connacht supporter I find it hilarious that Munster supporters complain about fairness regarding playing field /budgets, should we compare Connacht's budget vs the other Irish provinces? "Four Proud Provinces " yeah right. Munster so vain when they win and so bitter when they lose! Suck it up. Well done to Clermont and the style of rugby they play. Hope they win the Cup!

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Damo April 29, 2013 7:48 pm

Hahaha talk about bitter connacht man. It more of ye would have supported the team you might deserve more cash.

Dont forget us bitter munster fans bankroller you through the IRFU and now leinster does.

Up until a few years ago you only had approx 500 season ticket holders.

Smallest province (pop) = smallest budget
Get more of your friends to go to the match's with you.
The only reason your in the heineken is because of the rest of us.
Bitter enough for you now?

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El Lurcho April 29, 2013 6:21 am

Oh get over yourself. Claremont is a very cultured rugby area, they lost their first 11 french finals before winning one. Munster don't have the copyright on long suffering and passionate rugby.
And so what they have a few bucks to spend, thats the new standard so. Leinster, Munster etc now have to raise theirs.
Brilliant game of rugby and brilliant fans from BOTH sides.

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weltot April 29, 2013 8:10 am

In fairness, if you're going to give out about that, I wouldn't look at the other semi final if I were you...

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WelshOsprey April 29, 2013 11:24 am

Good heart from munster against the odds, they did themselves proud

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DrG April 29, 2013 12:46 pm

Second video no worky on my telephoney :( oh and for crying out loud quit your bitching, I can't seem to conjure up that image of Doug Howlett wearing the green of Ireland in the past, anyone else recall it?

I personally do think it's a shame when teams are far from local or far from its own nation of players, but that appears to be the way rugby is heading and Clermont is not the only team to have foreign players... I recall a while ago the Saracens being likened to a Bok second team, countless players have crossed borders in the UK to play for others.

Rather than blame the clubs why not go all out and blame the players, "yeh well done Hines, you gave up the freezing highlands or wherever you were and moved to a lovely warm part of France" ... Actually whilst we're on Hines, wasn't he born somewhere completely non-scottish?

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Guy April 29, 2013 1:50 pm

I guess every professional club/province would like a higher salary cap combined with someone that has the same funds as Boudjellal. So it would be quite hypocritical to critisize other teams for it.

If you don't like the money that's going round in our beloved sport nowadays....well, try supporting a team that does not play at the highest level.

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Damo April 29, 2013 3:46 pm

You do realise and Irish province has won 5 of the last 7 european cups right?

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Guy April 29, 2013 4:40 pm

And your point is? I don't see what this has to do with my post.

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Dummy April 29, 2013 5:30 pm

Though I am not a big fan of Boudjellal behavior, it appears that he did'nt throw that much money his club. He used to own an mid sized comics company (around 40m€ of revenue). I think that as of today, the main part of Toulon's budget comes from sponsoring.
But what is remarkable is how he brought very big names to the club (Gregan, Matfield, Mehrtens, Collins, Umaga who stayed for a while, etc.) while it was in Pro D2 thus transforming Toulon into an "international brand" very marketable for high profile players from France and abroad.
To be fair..when you watch the starting line its pretty impressive since it's now very well organised at every position. They have played an very pleasant rugby most of the year (they have been struggling a little for the last two or three months)

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matt April 29, 2013 2:54 pm

We'd all love our club to have access to that sort of money, but we aren't allowed it, even if we find it, and that is sort of unfair.
Having said that, it isn't fair complaining at the French, it should be the RFU(?) that gets blamed, the way they financially govern the Aviva premiership is absurd. And from the very brief bits I've read on the subject, the WRU is no better.

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Damo April 29, 2013 3:34 pm

In responce to the second comment.

How many of those players are actually from clermont? and I dont mean france. Your club operate for their own prosperity nothing else. Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht all operate for the benifit of its people. If we had businesses runing our sports their wouldnt be a european cup. I dont think Connacht have made a profit for the vast majority of its existance.

Do you realise that in Ireland it is a socialist program essentially? No 1 man owns any of the clubs, its people and supporters do.

Just so you know, 11 of the starting team and 16 in the squad are from Munster, with 20 Irish men. Say bye bye to your national team, because you personally have SOLD THEM OUT.

6/7 french players in the Clermont starting team?

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Guy April 29, 2013 4:39 pm

Off course the amount of overseas players in the top 14 is having a negative influence on the results of the national team (despite this they came second in the World Cup, basicly without a coach).

On the other hand: you can't just compare both countries. The French (for their national selection) can select from 14 teams, the Irish from 4. That alone is a reason to force the team to keep the amount of foreign players low in Ireland.

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Damo April 29, 2013 7:40 pm

If i was you I would go check the stats and figures.

Oh ya and the french results in compeditive rugby. The fact of the matter is they should always be the best in the northern hemi along with England.

Yet wales continues to be the best at international level and Ireland the best at club level. FACT

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mise April 29, 2013 3:37 pm

Man city have a really long history too. They also had the best U23 team in Britain, locally built up, before the money came in. Then that disappeared into the ether.

This final represents big money. That's unquestionable. And its something rugby fans think about from time to time - and this is an apt time to think about it, because this final has these teams in it because of big money.

Yes, they have real fans and long histories, more than many teams do. But that alone would not have gotten them into the final.

Sometimes, things are protected and for good reason: Irish club numbers of foreign players for eg. (and of course in life outside rugby that happens too, and again for good reason - PGI DOC PDO etc in food)

Of course every single fan would like their individual club to have loadsa money. That's a pointlessly obvious and myopic notion.

But something is lost when the game becomes primarily about the worlds top 100 players in each hemisphere playing almost exclusively for whoever pays the most.

This is especially the case if there are weak or no rules on balancing the books (even soccer is getting rid of that one soon, thankfully).

One of the many effects of this is that fans become irreverent cheerleaders as the years roll by: replaceable by other, better paying fans if they don't like the arrangement.

When this happens, rugby may be a large spectator sport, but it will be something only slightly more relevant than 3d cinema or an xbox.


@colombes you are making presumptions. I know that well paid players can try hard etc

@vanadaryl thanks for the extra info (the 4th Irish club qualified this time around because Leinster won last time. And if the negotiations go a particular way about how the H cup works, Italian and Scottish teams may end up never even getting close to competing)

And obv there is more to this than the two french clubs btw - its at a trend, a dynamic in the game that's worth examining.

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Damo April 29, 2013 3:44 pm

Well said to you mise......not that other wally above

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Damo April 29, 2013 3:40 pm

And for those of you who say it looks like Rugby is going the Man City route.....its only in France and England that people operate like this!!

South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Ireland, Wales, Scotland unions all have some if not total control.

And didnt france get HAMMERED in the u21 6nations this year? Most of them where from the Div 2 in france!! Bye bye France, at least England are trying to bring through their own players, with success I might add!!! Owen Farrell, Barrit, could be here all day

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 4:10 pm

Quickly checked the facts:
France was 5th this year in U20 (better than main team who was last...).
But the 2 years before we were 2nd.
So, you know, there's no real trend here.

As for local players (or at least trained locally), the requirements are getting higher every year. Today, 50% of players have to be trained in France. Next year (or the year after, I think it has changed), it's gonna be 60%. I think we need more rules but we have lots of great players to come (Fofana who just became famous, Buttin, lots of guys from Toulouse...)

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matt April 30, 2013 12:55 am

New Zealand and Australia are desperately looking for ways to stem the flow of their developed pros up to the NH. One of the key options they are looking at is increasing the amount of money in the game in their countries. How they do this is something that is being looked at and could go several ways. But the result will be the same. Unfortunately, in any market once you get a buyer with a lot of money, the other buyers will have to find ways to increase their budgets to compete for the best resources. And this invevitably means we are heading down the Man City/Chelsea route, for better or worse.
Also, I think we ought to be careful about referring to Barrit as bringing through our own players.

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Damo April 30, 2013 7:50 pm

Ok enough of this nonsence.

Where I come from every rugby player wants to play for Munster, because we love the place its who we are and we can live in our own town, around our own family and no reason to leave.

What even dump you come from it is obviously different.

And speaking as some one who lived in New Zealand. There super rugby competition is useless. I went to the Super Rugby final between the Crusaders vs Warathas. An "amazing" attendence of 25,000 for the best team in super rugby ever.

So dont tell me that money is all there after. ROG and POC dont play for money, they play for trophies, for passion and pride, for their families and friends. Maybe that dump you live in could learn from us. oh ya and 5 HC in the last 7 years, 8 in total, 2 irish teams in the final last year.

And another thing, the final will not be sold out this year because their french and its happened before.

Munster filled the Millenium stadium in 08, lets see the dump you come from do that

You talk noting but nonsence

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Damo April 29, 2013 4:23 pm

Ok fair enough about the U20 but still its not a good sign. and there are 14 clubs. I would love to know how many of them will actually make in the french league squads. I can only think of 1 off the top of my head, guy from Toulouse, obvi more?

And I dont mean trained in france, I mean Clermont kids growing up to play for Clermont. And as far as I know about those rule changes, salary caps etc They say 1 thing but actually end up coming show, ie salary cap rules.

The only solution in my eyes is to limit the number of NON FRENCH players in each team. Something like 5 in a match day squad and no more than 6 at the club?

France has the ability but not the mentality, 60million people in france - 6million in Ireland.

Perhaps france should also stop going to the Pacific Islands too to find players to play for France.

The Pacific Islands coachs (notibally Fiji) recently complained about french clubs PAYING pacific Island players to NOT play for their country.

Fance is doing the game no favours, only filling the pockets of the rich at the expience of the poor

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 4:35 pm

That is pretty true, the real rugby leaders in France being the clubs' presidents.
I also agree on quotas of French players actually playing (starting XV).
I think it all comes down to one thing: there should be a unique system in Europe or even in the world (but let's first begin with EU), having the experience of the errors of soccer.

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Damo April 29, 2013 7:43 pm

Couldnt have put it better myself because there are only 6 main nations in Europe we can not play the same way as Soccer.

France and England are about to bully out Italy and Scotland from the Heineken Cup.

I recon all the smaller nations should team up and vote together (IRB about to give smaller nations more power ie Italy in the north and Argentina in the south)

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matt April 30, 2013 1:00 am

Italy and Scotland in the North are not the same as Argentina in the south. With the exception of this years 6N, which was highly unusual, Italy and Scotland are just not competitive internationally, and neither are their club sides (Edinburgh had a good H cup run last year, but how'd they do this time).
As much as I hate to say it, I think if the NH is going to keep pace with the SH in future we either have to steal all their players (Top 14 is admirably doing its part here) or find a way to encourage genuine competitiveness in our competitions. And one way to do that is re examine who is given places in the H cup

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Damo April 30, 2013 7:56 pm

Its people like you that should have nothing to do with OUR sport.

The more you talk the more people can see that you one of those money hungry capitalists.

You should bury your head in the sand mate because you and people like you have no vision. You clearly know nothing about the game on any scale (local or international)

You do know that Russia want in on the HC. And before u start coming out with even more S**T you should check out the details. And yes note the operating budgets. You dont NEED money to be sucessful, remember that

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Colombes April 29, 2013 4:52 pm

Too much sour semantic over there...

France salary cap had a perverse efect with a lot of recruitment in the SH, but like said before, things will be more regulated in following years. There isn't a lack of talent in youth squads, far from that. The system and some french management mentalities wasn't just favourable enough for them.

Limit the number of foreign players on match sheet? That's a "discrimation" and would lead to the same football statements of "Arret Bosman".

I won't answer on the argument "ireland vs france mentality" who doesn't even deserve an answer.

France does its "market" in pacific islands? I didnt know that manu tuilagi was... french. Are u referring to Tolofua, Vahaamina, Taofifenua who are all french born...?
Or is it because the racingman Vaikatawa has claimed he would be interested to play for france...

France is doing no favours to the game...? As you seem to favour ridicule arguments, fair enough

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 5:29 pm

I'm sorry I don't see the downside of a "positive discrimination" in sport.

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Colombes April 29, 2013 5:34 pm

Maybe "positive" but still "discrimation"

I would prefer to see top14 clubs discovering by themselves all the benefit to form and give the keys to young lads, than to be submitted to rules ;)

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Reality April 29, 2013 9:00 pm

Colombes, you think 'discrimination' in sport is a terrible thing, so does that mean international matches should be stopped because foreign players are 'discriminated' against?

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Damo April 29, 2013 7:55 pm

Haha you sound like all the other french diplomats in suits.

Check out the rules in soccer mate, you will soon find out its not "discrimination". Unless it means something else in french?

And yes you do poach players from the Islands. Last year french club organised a game between two selections of Pacific Island players. Why?

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Dummy April 29, 2013 5:39 pm

Actually I believe the claim by Fiji's coach was dismissed.

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Damo April 29, 2013 7:51 pm

Till he had the backing of fiji players and every1 involved (all of whom profit €)

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iamaroman April 29, 2013 4:44 pm

There seems to be a lot of talk about Clermont's budget and fairness.

There is no correlation between the two. When two teams play each other, there is no thought about budget difference, it is entirely about beating the other team no matter what. When Clermont and Munster started this game, they both started at 0-0. Clermont played better, and so they won.

Grenoble beat Toulon two weeks ago, and their budget is very low in comparison.

If anyone has any evidence to show that the greater budget, the more victories - please share.

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 4:54 pm

I actually do:

Stade Toulousain 34,97 M EUR
Clermont 25,52 M EUR
Stade Français 22,81 M EUR
Toulon 21,84 M EUR
Racing-Métro 21,74 M EUR
Bayonne 17,96 M EUR
Montpellier 17,51 M EUR
Biarritz 17,33 M EUR
Castres 15,61 M EUR
Grenoble 14,90 M EUR
Perpignan 14,47 M EUR
Agen 13,19 M EUR
Bordeaux-Bègles 11,93 M EUR
Mont-de-Marsan 6,23 M EUR

Ranking before last day:
1. Clermont
2. Toulon
3. Stade Toulousain
4. Castres
5. Racing-Métro
6. Montpellier
8. Stade Français
9. Grenoble
10. Aviron Bayonnais
11. Biarritz
12. Bordeaux-Bègles
13. Agen
14. Mont-de-Marsan

Can you see a link?

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Damo April 29, 2013 7:57 pm

Point proven!

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matt April 30, 2013 1:03 am

And even the smallest budget in there is 50% more than any English club is allowed

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Vanadyel April 29, 2013 5:23 pm

Also that's funny cause when Irish clubs were winning we thought that was unfair because of the difference of systems, and we were ready to change the Hcup. Now that French clubs are winning, the Irish think it is unfair, and for the same reason.

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Damo April 29, 2013 8:01 pm

Yet french clubs want to push Scotland and Italy out of the Hcup?

I bet you call that fair too?

I dont care how much they pay them every year in france. I do care about them poaching the best players in the world and not even trying to produce there own players.

Toulouse did it before, why not now?

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mise April 29, 2013 7:43 pm

Funny and interesting point at the end there Vanadyel. And has been said, lots of countries do impose limits of players, mostly through international caps 'bribe'.

All protectionisms impose limits and sometimes that can be, or seem, unfair: but of course there are numerous ways, sometimes unintended, that unfairness emerge. Esp in an unbridled pure capitalist system.

My own feeling on the Irish recent dominance of the H cup was that it was in part caused by some judicious national-provincial player management, helped in no small part by a tax intensive for retiring players.

Before professionalisation, almost all Irish players played in the UK, and it was a dark dark time for the national squad. They were appalling.

Of course Leinster ended up loosing N Hines to....Claremont because of the rules/limits in Irl.......

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Damo April 29, 2013 8:14 pm

Yet again, very right there mise.

The one thing I will say is Ireland put a lot of money into bringing those players in England back to play Ireland and yes with the help of the tax system. Dont forget rugby was tiny in Ireland at the time. Munster only had about 5000 supporters when they beat saracens back in the 90's.

Even though we have dominated europe we have no where near dominated the transfer market. And our operating budget is about 1/6 of the top teams in France. For what we have we do very very well, Im just saying clubs and capitalism are not good for the game in general.

Imagine this, Ireland and Wales let players go to the top14, taking french players positions all the while we have Irish and Wales players playing top flight rugby in europe and 80/90% of those Irish and Welsh clubs have mostly home grown players?

Sound familiar???
Ireland has copied New Zealands model

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Reality April 29, 2013 9:12 pm

I don't mean for this to just sound like sour grapes, because Clermont were ten times better than Munster, and if Munster won it would have been a tragedy (although a welcome tragedy from my perspective). But the thing is, to everybody here and in the media in general who is saying that there's an all-French final - there is not an all French final. The two clubs are French, yes, but considering that more than half of the players are going to be non-French, it's not a French final; it's an international final. I mean, 8 out of 15 for Clermont, and an unbelievable 11 out of 15 for Toulon who started at the weekend weren't French, so the idea of calling it a French final is just ludicrous to me. There were actually as many English players in the Toulon starting team at the weekend as French.

Two French clubs will be playing, but there won't be two French teams playing. You can say they deserve to be in the final and that they're the two best teams around, fine, but to call them French is just incorrect.

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Colombes April 29, 2013 10:14 pm

Absolutely baffled by the stupidity of some comments over here and there

Trying to justify Munster defeat by the money power of french clubs, or simply saying that french clubs aren't frenchs.
I hear the same biased semantic each year

Hcup success is due to an amount of experience, management, fitness peak and strategy. Like Clermont, u must lose, to know how to win... If money ruled the world, France would have win the 10 last hcups. but they didn't!
Certainly because they have less heart, passion and pride than irish provinces, etc bullshit... etc topics...

Sour grapes really can create total delirium, really.

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Reality April 29, 2013 11:17 pm

I think dismissing those points as bias, stupidity and sour grapes is a bit biased and stupid of you. Heineken Cup success is down to all those things that you mentioned. You failed to mention however that success is also down to being able to have the best players, and you also failed to say that if you have much more money than anyone else you'll invariably be able to buy the best players.

If it was down to just the factors that you listed, Munster would have easily won the game with their superior experience and heart etc. The fact is though that Clermont's players are far better, the reason being that they were able to buy world-class talent.

In fairness, they have some great French players as well, so they're not as bad as Toulon in that sense, but to dismiss the argument that French clubs buy players and therefore buy success as sour grapes is just foolish. I mean at the end of the day, 19 out of the starting 30 of Clermont and Toulon at the weekend weren't French, so I think saying they have an unfair advantage in that they can buy in whatever mercenaries they want is a perfectly valid point. Do you think they go to France to be able to play for teams with good management and strategies, or do you think they go because they can earn a big sack of money? If money is so unimportant, would Clermont and Toulon be in the final if they weren't owned by millionaires who gave them loads of money? No way.

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Colombes April 29, 2013 11:41 pm

i won't write a novel.
i just constate that ur aknowledge of french rugby is very poor, and based on a lot of clichés. these weekend results are maybe too fresh, and our views certainly too passionate, to have a fair conclusion ;)
big top14 money is a factor of success, a light pro12 calendar is another one.
but to say that millions win u Hcups is simply demagogic bullshit. The very poor results of "millionaires" like stade français and racing say it all.

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Vanadyel April 30, 2013 12:13 am

I pretty much agree except I'd add that money is the key factor to success (not the only, agreed) and I don't think Reality's point of view is based on clichés.
On the other hand lots of players choose Clermont not only for money but also for the experience: money helps leaving the home country that's for sure, but they know who's gonna train them and I think Vern Cotter is a good factor, and they know they're gonna play in Hcup and they kinda know what's the rugby style here and there.

But that's not the point: the point is that french clubs and irish clubs do not have the same set of rules. It's not the fault of France or Ireland but they point out a problem: we need to have a common system so that everyone plays on the same level. I like ours as much as I like the Irish one. But people at the top of the rugby union have to say something. Protectionism or capitalism, or a mix of both?

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Reality April 30, 2013 9:36 pm

Ok Colombes, my correct, factual points obviously show that my knowledge of French rugby is poor. How foolish of me.

But regarding the 'light' Pro 12 calendar, some people would say that playing difficult matches every week trains you to be good. I find it hard to believe that the Irish teams could just not try for the 22 Pro 12 games there are a year, and then suddenly become excellent for the 6 Heineken Cup ones. I'd argue that if they're so good in the Heineken Cup, then they must have learned to be good from somewhere. And I think Munster vs Leinster for example is as important as any Heineken Cup game. Yeah, there are low quality games like Zebre vs Edinburgh, but first of all the Italians and Scottish need a league to play in. I'd say the Top 14 expanding to include the Italian teams would have been perfect, but it didn't expand, and instead, the Celtic League welcomed them. Secondly, I don't know why you have such a high opinion of the Top 14. The top 6 are pretty good, but then the rest of the teams are terrible. Bayonne vs Agen is a worse standard than anything in the Pro 12. If you compare the Pro 12 teams against the best 12 of the Top 14, I think the Pro 12 teams are definitely as good.

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Pinksnotdead April 29, 2013 11:57 pm

This is my first ever comment on RD although i've been reading them for a long time now. I'm really surprised by the turn that this discussion is taking given the quality of the posts we usually find here.

I can understand the problems that money is causing in a non global sport such as rugby and I must say I'm part of the French who don't like Toulon because of their 'Galacticos' strategy. But to say that RCT and ASM are not French, that this final won't have a decent taste because of their budget, or that France is stealing players from the Pacific Islands (please name one player from these islands who ISN'T French) is just unbearable.
Go and check the comments for the 2010 HC final between ST and BO. There is not a single mention of their budget. How come it's what everybody's talking about now ? Saturday's game was a superb semi-final. Maybe not a classic like ASM-Leinster last year, but still... There has been ONE comment about it whereas there is so much to say!

And Clermont in the same bag as Toulon? Seriously? If their is one team that deserves to be in that final for all their efforts, patience and suffering over these last four years, it's them.

To be honest, I think that bringing players like Roberts, Lydiate or Sexton in the T14 is a mistake because in the long term it will hinder the HCup for it's weakening the opponents, which is not the same thing as reinforcing your team.
But as a rugby lover who doesn't have the time to watch Super Rugby or even the Four Nations, I'm really glad I can see players like Sivivatu, Giteau, Botha et al on a weekly basis. It's also a good championship is about: a good show with some quality players.

To be continued. Yes I have a lot on my heart because I'm really glad to see a team like Clermont in that final and to see people diminish their success like that upsets me a lot.

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Pinksnotdead April 30, 2013 12:19 am

So, as I was saying: Leinster and Munster focus more on the HC, but their is not one T14 team (except Clermont this year) that does the same.
They all battle week in week out in a much tougher much tighter championship than the Pro12. For that, they need much bigger squad. These last few weeks, Clermont had a HC 1/4 final, an away game against Toulon the reception of the 2012 champions, a HC semi and will have another semi, a HC final and maybe an other final.
It is strictly impossible to go through that without losing a few players to injury. When Vosloo or Rougerie get injured, you need guys like Bardy or King to step up. For that you need big budgets.

These last few years people complained about the advatage that the Pro12 teams have because they don't have to fight for their spot in the HC or because they could rest their players and it is just as ridiculous.
If anything, those semi-finals have proven that even though teams are fighting with different weapons, the margin between them is considerably thin. Maybe Munster would have won the semi, had it been in Ireland. And there is no doubt they will win some in the next few years.

As far as Pro 12 is concerned, I'm sure it's a very entertaining championship, but I can't help but feel that they do need something like a relegation system and a HC qualification system, not because it would be more fair (fairer?) but because it makes the league much more interesting and therefore bring more people to the stadium and more audience on TV.
A team like Stade francais plays at least 4 time a year at the stade de France, plus a bunch of games in cities like Lille or Le Havre, which bring tons of cash and creates new fans. Who shows up to Newport Dragons vs Zebre bar a few die hard fans ? If those teams feared relegations, I can tell you that those games would be much more interesting.

Well I think I'm done here, sorry if this is unreadable, but don't worry, I don't speak my mind very often.

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Guy April 30, 2013 12:33 am

I think you made some sensible and excellent points in your two posts. For example the fact that there are some rather youtube-ist comments on this post today, mostly coming from the same person. Please post more often because your points of view make good reading.

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Colombes April 30, 2013 10:49 am

Thx for these realist comments which end a debate which was never one.

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Damo April 30, 2013 8:04 pm

Well with a chunk of whiting like that no one is going to read it.

I want the french teams to give up one of their places to Italy and we'l (RaboPro12) will give one to another developing nation.

Oh ya france wont do that because they want less nations in the competition.
Where is the vision there.

You can put your house on it that the final this year will not be sold out, compare that to a real club like Munster who sold out the millenium stadium against Biarittz.

Throw french rugby to the wolves.

Couldnt beat Irish teams on the field so they beat us with money, boring!

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Pinksnotdead April 30, 2013 12:39 am

Oh yeah, no, I forgot. Someone out there (too lazy to seek who) asked how many Clermont-born players were in the Clermont team. I feel this is very narrow-minded of him. What about players like Bonnaire or Parra? Should they be playing in third division with Bourgoin where they learnt their rugby? Actually, should Parra be playing in Alsace where he is born(est of France, where most people have never seen an ovale ball).
Or Fofana, who I think is from the suburbs of Paris, does he deserves to wear that yellow shirt?
What about Nalaga who arrived in Clermont when he was 18 and has always played there? Is he worthy of being called a Montferrandais or is he just another mercenary?

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matt April 30, 2013 1:13 am

There are always examples of home grown ability, but there is still the inescapable issue of budgets, there is simply no way that UK teams could afford to assemble the squads that the top top 14 teams have. Like I've said before, this is not the fault of the French teams, however, it is unfair to clubs here that are handicapped by rules.

I did enjoy your comment(s) though, keep it up

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Damo April 30, 2013 8:09 pm

Yet English clubs want to side with France when it comes to the Heineken Cup and persue their relentless assult on the weaker nations.

England and France are trying to get rid of the possibility of any Italian or Scottish clubs playing in the competition so they can be replaced by french of english clubs or just not have them at all.

I guess you call this fair, muppet

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Damo April 30, 2013 8:22 pm

And so you know yes they should. Nalaga can play for who ever he wants as long as he plays every Fiji, oh wait he's a mercenary.

As for the other you mentioned, yes they should. Ever hear of developing a team? or building one. All you know is money. Probably why French sports teams are so fickle? Soccer and rugby, weak mentally.

As for Bourgoin, they should be even lower, worst team in the Heineken Cup even, right behind Agen.

The idea is to get the best local players you can, then add best national players where you are weakest and ONLY THEN do you look outside.

In France its get the best players (mostly outside france) and if we cant get the best get a random French guy. And dont tell me its not, idiot

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TotesMcGoates April 30, 2013 1:25 am

On the subject of "ManCity-ification", isn't this the first time that two teams with big budgets described in the posts above have met in the Heineken Final? I'd understand concern about money dominating the sport if this was happening every year but this has not been the case in the past number of years.

I think Clermont in particular have been one of the best sides that I've seen in either hemisphere this year and they deserve to be there in the final.

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Vanadyel April 30, 2013 10:30 am

We indeed do deserve this final :p Especially since we've beaten the main Irish clubs, my favorite "foreign" clubs.
I don't think the point is deserving a final or not (how many times would we deserve to have won against Leinster... :D), it's a matter of differences between systems: money in France is countered by the calendar and the protectionism in Ireland (can an Irish play abroad?).
Both have pros and cons: great foreign players and great local league or developing local players... etc

An Auvergnat supporter.

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Reality April 30, 2013 9:19 pm

I appreciate your points here, and I appreciate that you're actually making logical arguments rather than saying simply, "No, money isn't important" but I don't really understand your 'protectionism' point. Irish people can play abroad, although the Irish clubs try to keep the Irish players. And similarly, French players can play abroad, but very rarely do, so it's the same in both countries.

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Colombes April 30, 2013 11:27 pm

french fans don't say "money is not important", they just consider it necessary as french clubs fight on the 2 strongest clubs competitions of the nh (top14 and Hcup)
and like noticed before, i'm generally pretty fan of the rugby played by irish teams (especially Leinster), but some irish fans acrimonious remarks just don't have their place on this blog, and particularly on this Clermont victory thread.
I fact, all this very "intelligent" exchange on "money rule the world" or "french teams aren't...frenchs" would have been (maybe) more credible on Toulon thread.

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Reality May 01, 2013 12:50 am

You can justify it all you want, but the fact of the matter is, French clubs have huge financial resources compared to other clubs, which they use to buy foreign players, and since there doesn't seem to be any limit of the amount of foreign players in the French teams, people understandably feel that these French teams are just using their money to buy the best players and are therefore buying their way to success, which seems quite unfair, and could lead to a situation like the current one in soccer.

You're absolutely right in saying that the arguments are more valid for Toulon than Clermont, but I think considering how many mercenaries the two teams have (19 out of 30 last weekend), together with the publicity that the Jonathan Sexton move to Racing has created, along with the increasingly alarming lack of French players in key positions in the traditional French rugby powerhouse Toulouse, as well as the recent exodus of Welsh players to French clubs, people are getting very worried about the future of the game.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the rugby Clermont play. I think they play really attractive rugby, even if I think they shouldn't be allowed to buy so many foreign players, and maybe it is inappropriate for all these comments to be made here rather than on the Toulon video, but even if it's inappropriate, the arguments still stand, and in my view are very valid.

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TotesMcGoates May 01, 2013 2:44 am

Well, it's all relative, isn't it? I think the Irish clubs are allowed 5 or 6 players from overseas. Compared with Australia, I believe the established clubs are only allow 2 foreign players while the Force and Rebels are allowed 3. Similarly with the South African clubs, only 2 foreign players can play in each game (you may remember the Southern Kings controversy from earlier in the year).

It's the same thing as a Waratahs supporter complaining of the big money in Leinster attracting a Rocky Elsom etc overseas. I don't know the specifics of the finances of each club but I think that Leinster pull a bigger crowd than the 'Tahs every week so I'm assuming that they have more money to throw around based on that.

It's been said earlier, each system has its merits and pitfalls. I think it's just a case of different strokes for different folks.

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young guns May 01, 2013 12:21 am

why are Irish fans giving out about the french clubs having a much higher salary cap then us on this? the french clubs have always had more money then us since the game went professional. still hasn't stopped us winning 6 Heineken cups. the same as the french! all the french are doing is ruining there future progression at the sport because the higher the salary cap goes the more lucrative foreign players they can bring in. ruining the chance for their young players.

what i don't like though is the fact that they are now trying to get rid of Scottish and Italian teams from the Heineken cup. them and the English clubs are so flipping self centered it's ridiculous. if they want to change the Heineken cup do it to benefit the sport not your own pockets!

Europe has the highest playing population in the world and the oldest international tournament in the world. yet it has only been changed twice in its history.

I feel that they should change the Heineken cup to include teams from countries like Georgia, Romania (both are regular RWC teams now), Russia, Spain and Germany ... make it Change the qualification process completely as well. From the RD12 - top 2 irish teams, top 2 welsh, top scottish and italian. this means that where the teams finish actually matters and makes the league more interesting, money, higher attendances (the irish clubs keep the average up really!) the top 3 french and top 3 english. 4 spots for georgia romania russia, spain, germany. 2 for the finalists of the amlin and the last 5 are decided through qualifiers. the qualifiers can be done at the end of the season because all the teams involved in the business end of the season will generally have already have qualified. if they haven't amends to fixture dates can be done.

IRB should really make a big effort to rugby going big time in Germany. biggest!economy in Europe. plus the children there actually want to play the sport. spent a summer there and my school mates loved the sport!

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TotesMcGoates May 01, 2013 2:50 am

The beauty of the Heineken Cup is how competitive it is, we all know how crucial bonus points etc can be in the pool stages. I don't think having Toulouse flogging an amateur team from Romania would do the tournament any favours.

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Pinksnotdead May 01, 2013 3:58 am

Usually I never check a post more than once but the debate is actually very nice.
I'm with TotesMcGoates on the Russia/Georgia in the HC. Who would watch Bucarest-Agen in the AC? Is it even on TV?
Besides it's the AC's role to develop the game in Europe.

Although, off topic, this year I saw Poland-Ukraine (3rd International division) on streaming and my word the Ukrainian where playing a fantastic brand of rugby: counter-atttacking from their 22, playing fast pace rugby, offloading... So it's not only the usual Georgia or Japan (best brand of rugby in the world in my opinion) that are improving. I heard Cyprus could qualify for the world cup too!

As far as the HC format is concerned, I don't think there is actually any French rugby fan that would like to change the way it is. This competion seems to improve by itself every single year. Why fix something that is not broken? I'm sure the English fans feel the same way.

The one for who it is really not working are the Welsh. Maybe they should forbid their welsh players to play abroad, but I feel something is deeply wrong in their club rugby: they have some fantastic players, but in front of how many people do they play? When was the last time a welsh club reached the HC semi ? 2009, no? At some point the WRU is bound to see that they must ask theirselves some questions.

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Pinksnotdead May 01, 2013 4:10 am

About the impact of foreign players on the national side, I'm staying optimistic because I'm very pessimistic about St André... Any French player from Clermont or Toulon will tell you that the foreigners, brought an ethic of work that simply did not exist in France. In any sport.
All the French footballers, rubgyman or whatever that go to England say that the one thing that surprised them was the intensity of the training. Always. Especially working out. We just tend to play more than work. Which is part of the explanation between the different ways of playing between the two countries.

In football, France became world champions just a few years after the 'arret Bosman' from the EU that enabled them to go abroad and train like champions must do.
Since in rugby the French are not moving away to learn it, why not import that training culture?
That is exactly what happened with Clermont when Cotter arrived. All the players are much stronger than just a few years ago. The the child-eating mercenaries from Toulon are not only good players, their all workaholics and all the French in the squad are saying that training with them forced them to work way way harder.

But maybe the top 14 is just a doomsday device that will destroy european rugby.

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Colombes May 01, 2013 2:34 pm

Can't agree more.
If french clubs are interested by foreign players in order to attract attendance and sponsors, i don't think it will handicap France on the long term.
I'm not a big fan of St-André as a manager, his teams generally a direct and forward game... But as an influent man, he can make understand to ffr and top14 clubs all the benefit to install more young french lads on the pitch.
As said before, if young french players are generally on skills basics, they can learn a lot on the physical aspect with foreign anglosaxon players who are training machines.

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rugby08 May 01, 2013 3:31 pm

Please shut the hell up Damo, you vile Munster troll

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