12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
ERC Ltd and SANZAR, the governing bodies responsible for the management and development of the Heineken Cup and the Rugby Super 12 tournaments, have held further talks to discuss staging an annual challenge match between their two champions.
Following on from a meeting held in Johannesburg during the summer, delegates met again in Dublin this week ahead of the IRB Players' Welfare conference. Derek McGrath, Chief Executive of ERC, was joined by SANZAR representatives John O'Neill, Rian Oberholzer and Steve Tew, Chief Executives of the Australian, South African and New Zealand rugby unions respectively.
There is full support from both ERC and SANZAR to create such a fixture and make it an integral part of the rugby calendar. Both parties are determined such a prestige match will only become a reality when the right date can be found in the calendar to ensure both champions are able to field full strength teams and are given sufficient time to prepare for a major international occasion.
Having examined all relevant issues, including pressure on players, the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the current congestion in the international and domestic fixture lists, ERC and SANZAR agreed it is not possible at this time to find a suitable date to stage such a game.
"There is a common consensus amongst stakeholders, including clubs, sponsors, broadcasters, media and the fans, to create a meaningful challenge match between the champions of the Heineken Cup and the Rugby Super 12 tournaments," said Derek McGrath, chief executive of ERC. "We believe that in order for this event to establish itself on the global rugby calendar that it must start on a sound footing. For this reason both sides concluded that the time is not right at present."
"However, the fact we have widely debated all the issues involved in arranging a fixture of this magnitude at our two meetings underlines our joint commitment and we will continue to talk with our colleagues at SANZAR about the future of this event."
Rian Oberholzer, MD of SA Rugby and member of the SANZAR Board, added: "Although we have been unable to find a suitable date for this match in the short term, like ERC we are fully committed to the development of this prestige event." "We see it as an excellent shop window for the Super 12 product and believe that the event will be fully embraced by the players and fans of our two hemispheres."