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Heineken Cup

ERCEuropean clubs have agreed to launch three new continental tournaments, after almost two years of conflict.

The six federations and representatives from English, French and Welsh teams made the announcement on Thursday.

In a joint-statement, the nine stakeholders also revealed that previous competition organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC) will be replaced by a new organisation – European Professional Club Rugby – based in Switzerland.

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Heineken CupThe tug of war regarding the premier club competition in European rugby has been conducted very publicly for a long time and a week ago it was reported that an announcement on the structure of future competitions was imminent. However, it all seems to have gone quiet and no final announcement has been forthcoming.

There are rumours that the Italian clubs and their representative bodies were needing to discuss a few details of what should otherwise be a done deal. Furthermore there is the question of the broadcasting battle between Sky and BT Sport which is apparently in the process of being sorted out with a joint broadcast agreement likely for next season. The final rumour is that the parties involved may not have wanted to make any announcements this week in the lead up to the quarter finals of the current Heineken Cup competition.

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Edinburgh RugbyLong-serving Edinburgh Rugby duo Ben Cairns and Steven Lawrie have been forced to retire from rugby due to long-term knee injuries.

The news ends the tenure of the long-serving local lads, both capped for Scotland, who will now pursue careers on the other side of the white paint.

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ERCThe future of the European Cup has been plunged into fresh doubt after officials refused to release payments owed to competing clubs.

Following a board meeting of European Rugby Cup at its Dublin headquarters on Wednesday, tournament chiefs said they would reconvene on February 19.

ERC is facing the threat of extinction, with moves afoot to have the continent’s top club rugby union events run by another organisation next season.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupThe European Cup (wit it’s two legs of Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup) set a new pool stage attendance record as quarterfinal qualification went down to the wire once again at the weekend.

As Europe’s premier club tournament was delivering another rollercoaster Round Six full of intrigue, spectators were voting with their feet to set a new European Cup pool stage attendance record.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupRound 6 of the European Cup, which includes the Heineken Cup (Premier Competition) and Amlin Challenge Cup (secondary Qualification Competition) happened this past weekend and there was high drama and lots of action!

Sunday evening the full puzzle of who plays where in the Play-Off’s of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge cup was revealed.

In the Heineken Cup, Ulster will host Saracens, ASM Clermont Auvergne will host Leicester Tigers, whilst the defending champions Toulon will host Leinster and Munster will host Toulouse at Thomond Park. The Quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of 4 to 6 April.

In the Amlin Challenge Cup Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Gloucester have booked their spots in the Quarter-finals along with the amlin Challenge Cup Pool winners Bath, London Wasps, Stade Francais, Sale Sharks and Brive.

Bath will host Brive, London Wasps will host Gloucester, Stade Francais host Harlequins and Sale Sharks will host Northampton Saints.

The race to these Cup winners will be interrupted by the Six Nations tournament, which takes place from 1 February 2014.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupEighteen European Cup clubs are still in contention for silverware, following a pulsating weekend of Round Five action.

In the Heineken Cup race, reigning champions, Toulon, as well as ASM Clermont Auvergne and Munster emerged as winners of Pool 2, Pool 4 and Pool 6 respectively to seal their places in the last eight of the Heineken Cup – while Ulster, Leicester Tigers and Toulouse are also guaranteed coveted spots in the quarterfinals.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupJoe van Niekerk, Juan Smith, Bakkies Botha and Craig Burden were part of a dominant Toulon pack that created three penalty tries in the European champions’ win over Cardiff Blues.

Seven South African players were involved in Sunday’s match between Toulouse and Saracens, with Jano Vermaak, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Schalk Ferreira starting for the victorious French side who had Gurthrö Steenkamp on the bench. Neil de Kock, Alistair Hargreaves, Schalk Brits and Ernst Joubert were all on the losing side for the visitors.

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SharksThe world’s best hooker, Bismarck du Plessis, is among 12 Springboks named in a provisional Sharks squad to play Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday, January 25.

The reigning Currie Cup champions will play the current Premiership leaders, a unique clash between north and south, between the Heineken Cup in European Cup and Super Rugby.

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Heineken CupIt is crunch time in Europe’s premier club tournament, as we enter Round Five of the Euro Cup.  The build-up this week may have shone the spotlight on the heavyweight Anglo-French clashes – between Toulouse and Saracens, and Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne – but two other French giants will also be in crucial matches.  Defending European champions Toulon host Cardiff Blues in Nice on Saturday, while French champions Castres  are at home to Leinster on Sunday.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupQualification for the knockout stage of Europe’s premier club tournament is on the line once again as the tension-packed Rounds Five and Six of the European Cup assume centre stage in the coming fortnight.

Once the drama and number-crunching conclude, six pool winners and the two best pool runners-up will have booked prized spots in the European Cup quarterfinals, while the three next best pool runners-up will extend their season in Europe by qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Challenge Cup.

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WhistleAs summer settles warmly down south and cricket provides most interest, wet and wind do their best to disrupt the North as rugby seeks to fight the wild weather off so that the European competitions can be played this week and next.

These are the last two pool rounds in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup before the knock-out rounds. There is a lot at stake for some clubs.

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ERCWalesThe Welsh Rugby Union has made a dramatic about-turn in their stand-off with the four regions.

Just a day after the WRU hinting it could set up new franchises to play in European competitions and the Pro12, the national body said it would return to the boardroom with a new agreement for the current regional teams.

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ERC French rugby is currently full of news regarding player movements and player contract offers and extentions.

Toulouse has offered South African prop, Schalk Ferreira a 3-Tear extention to his current deal after some outstanding performances by him. Toulon has extended Deon Armitage’s contract for 2 years whilst Maxime Mermoz has signed on till 2017.  After some speculation about Jonny Wilkinson’s possible retirement, it appears he might want to continue on at Toulon for another year.

Tommaso Allan, Italian international flyhalf, has also won him a contract extention with Perpignan.

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