The integration of South African franchises in the European rugby cups from next season will allow “a rebalancing of forces”, estimated Saturday the president of the National Rugby League René Bouscatel.
How do you react to the arrival of the South Africans in the European Cups?
“The United Rugby Championship has dropped in level, it is very largely dominated by the Irish. It was the Celts who wanted to integrate South Africans into their competition, to raise their level. These teams are included in one of the organizing competitions of the current European Cups. Therefore, it is normal that they participate in the European Cups: if they finish in the first, they are qualified for the European Cups. The advantage is to raise the level of the European Cup by raising the level of the domestic championships. It will rebalance the forces and therefore bring a higher level, both sportingly and economically. But the athlete is the main, the economy follows. »
Some speak of distorted competition. How do you answer them?
“There are always fundamentalists (laughs). Is the Tour de France still the Tour de France when it starts from Copenhagen? Competitions evolve. »
But this integration poses concrete concerns…
“I think it’s a good thing: there is certainly the distance but there is no jet lag, it’s an advantage. And there are planes that take you in nine or ten hours to South Africa, spending the night on the plane. It will be necessary to leave a day earlier and return a day later so that the players recover and travel in the best conditions. »
Exactly, who will pay the additional travel costs?
“The EPCR has provided compensation, greater than before, for the clubs that travel to allow them to travel in the best conditions. »
And the players in all this?
“It is in everyone’s interest, including the players, to play against teams they have never met: it will raise the level of our domestic competitions, including the Top 14, and it will bring makes a plus to our France team. There are undoubtedly disadvantages but it was a necessity. Especially in view of the 2023 World Cup. Anyway, as long as the South Africans are part of the URC, it will be like that. A wider European Cup, of a better level, is important. We progress by meeting stronger. There will be a rebalancing. »
And in terms of logistics?
“When I was president of Toulouse and we went to Toulon by bus, it took seven or eight hours, we left at eleven in the evening and we arrived at six in the morning. The players will travel in better comfort and it will be necessary to adapt the times and rhythm of the matches as well as the calendars so that there is recovery time. In the Top 14, it will be necessary to ensure that those who have gone to South Africa play on Sunday instead of playing on Saturday, for example. It is played at twenty-four hours compared to matches in Scotland or Wales. When we went to Wales from Toulouse, we arrived by plane near the English border then we took the bus: in the end, we were not far from the ten-hour journey! »
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