Katie Field questions the future of a competition which has lost its focal point…
THE victory celebrations were loud and long, but will Gloucester’s 34-7 win over Newcastle in this spring’s LV= Cup final be the last of its kind for an English Premiership club?
Cup final day used to be the climax of the club season in England, but the cup has been so severely devalued by the powers-that-be in the past two years that its very existence is in peril.
The top-flight clubs were taken out of the old RFU knockout cup and put into the Anglo-Welsh version, which upset traditional rugby folk. But at least there was still a Twickenham final and 54,899 fans turned up to see Cardiff Blues defeat Gloucester 50-12 in the 2009 showpiece.
However, the 2010 and 2011 LV= Cup finals were played at neutral club grounds and the fans took the hint that it is now just a sideshow; 12,024 watched Northampton beat Gloucester at Sixways in 2010, but only 6,848 were at Franklin’s Gardens as Gloucester made it third time lucky last month with some wonderful attacking rugby. Strangely, 12,533 had packed Kingsholm seven days earlier for the semi-final, but having just a week between the games is helpful to no one.
So, is it time to can the cup and just focus on the Premiership and Europe? Do the winners merit a Heineken Cup place when so many clubs field weakened teams in it? Gloucester’s coach Bryan Redpath sees the pros and cons.
“If you win it and get into the Heineken Cup because of that, you’ll say it’s a good competition,” he chuckles. “But with clubs not spending as much money and squads getting smaller, do we need a fixture list that’s packed from the middle of August right through until now?”
Redpath says the LV= Cup let him give valuable game time to youngsters like Rupert Harden and Yann Thomas this season.
“It’s also been good for our senior players, like Olly Azam, to win a trophy,” he adds. “The powers-that-be need to sit down and look at the bigger picture and see what’s best.”
This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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