4:03pm Monday 30th September 2013
By Iwan Gabe Davies
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons captain and Wales star Andrew Coombs has spoken of his desire of seeing the Heineken Cup survive as his improving region targets a return to the prestigious tournament.
But Europe’s premier club event is in grave danger of extinction as England’s Premiership Rugby and France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby plan to launch their own breakaway competition – the Rugby Champions Cup – in 2014.
The move by top English and French clubs is gathering what looks like an unstoppable momentum and they have extended an invitation to Celtic and Italian teams to join them as they serve a notice period to leave both the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions.
Back rower and lock Coombs was at the official Welsh and English launch of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup at the Millennium Stadium today where optimistic European Rugby Cup chief executive Derek McGrath stressed “the door is still open” over a possible compromise.
Coombs’ Dragons side are in the same group as Mogliano, Bath and Bordeaux Bègles for the secondary Amlin Challenge Cup.
And although he looks forward to competing in the much improved tournament, he is eyeing the prospect of qualifying for the far more illustrious Heineken Cup next year, although the future is incredibly uncertain.
“We’d obviously love to play in the Heineken Cup but we’ll settle for the Amlin for this season and see how we go from there,” he said.
“Hopefully the Heineken will still be here, obviously there’s a lot of debate at the moment but it’s something the Dragons have tried to get into for the last few seasons.
“It’ll be disappointing if it’s not around next season because we are developing as a squad and we feel it’s an achievable ambition to get into the Heineken and it’s something we are working on to try and do.
“So hopefully it’ll be here next year and hopefully we’ll able to make it in there.
“It’s massive and it’s a competition you grow up watching as a kid and it’s shame if it wasn’t here for our kids to watch.”
The Dragons kick off their Amlin campaign at home against Mogliano on Friday, October 11 before facing Bath away on Saturday, October 19.
And Coombs is looking forward to their European adventure: “It’s huge for us. We are trying to develop ourselves as a squad in all areas and it’s a great opportunity to show we can compete with European sides.
“First and foremost we can’t take Mogliano for granted, we had two convincing wins over them last season, however I’m sure they’ve improved quite a lot over the last season and we’ve got to play well to beat them first and if we can get a good solid result against them, then we’ll be in a good place going down to Bath.”
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