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Champions Cup format is unsustainable for club rugby in Europe

The Champions Cup format benefited Ulster this year, but it's not good for rugby at large, says Matt Williams.



Former rugby player Gordon D'Arcy and former coach Matt Williams joined Monday Night Rugby to discuss the format of the Champions Cup.

Ulster won one game in the group stages of the Champions Cup and advanced to the knockout rounds.

While a large section of Ireland rugby fans are happy that Ulster progressed, it's not good for the competition. Champions Cup rugby used to be an occasion. Before Christmas there were pool games and every single one of them mattered. You had to win your home games. You had to at least get a losing bonus point in your away games.

But now the early stages of the tournament don't carry the same weight as before. A Champions Cup group stage game is a bit like an early-season URC league game. Fans aren't as engaged because the stakes aren't as high as they're supposed to be.

Matt Williams watched Super Rugby in the Southern hemisphere fall into a similar trap. He is very concerned with the future of the club rugby in Europe.

"People will start saying these games mean nothing," Williams said.

"And so we'll wait until April until we'll get involved. Now last April, people did turn up in droves. But in the past the Heineken Cup as it was in a six-match build-up to quarter-finals. So many of those matches, they were playoff matches.

"You had to win that match or you didn't make it. The people knew. The players knew, the atmosphere at the stadium was sensational.

"It was very well followed. There was huge bums on seats. I think they're in danger of losing that."

Williams acknowledges that the biggest teams in the Champions Cup will always be well supported. Leinster, Munster, Toulouse, Saracens for example. But the teams after that point are in position to make more money through competition winnings, but will suffer with less engaged fanbases.

A competition that feels random or where half the games don't have drama is not a real competition.

"It diminishes the competition. And again, they diminished Super Rugby and it collapsed in every front. On tv. Bums on seats. Interest in news coverage, media coverage and so on. Heineken cup was the best club competition in the world, there's no doubt about it.

"By mucking around with it, they're really putting that in danger."

Hopefully the Champions Cup format won't last much longer.

England are less intimidating without Billy Vunipola - Monday Night Rugby.

 

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Champions Cup Champions Cup Format Matt Williams Monday Night Rugby Ulster Rugby

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