Dallaglio: Solve this mess
Two-time European Cup-winner Lawrence Dallaglio has urged governing bodies to preserve the competition or risk the Southern Hemisphere continuing to dominate the World Cup.
The future of the European Cup tournament is up in the air after English and French clubs gave notice to leave at the end of the season after a fractious series of negotiations.
An Anglo-French Cup is a possibility, but Dallaglio, who won the tournament in 2004 and 2007 with Wasps, believes that would play into the hands of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
The only time the World Cup has landed in the Northern Hemisphere in seven tournaments was when Dallaglio's England side, led by Martin Johnson, won it in 2003 in Australia.
And the former No.8 says the European Cup must pit the best against the best or it will damage prospects of the Webb Ellis Trophy staying north of the equator when England host the World Cup in 2015.
"My view is very simple," Dallaglio told reporters at an event to mark the beginning of a two-year countdown to the global tournament.
"Given that all but one of every World Cup has been won by the Southern Hemisphere, those responsible for organising the best tournaments in this part of the world have got a duty and obligation and a responsibility to make sure the best players are playing against the very best players on the biggest stage of all – especially in the build-up to a Rugby World Cup.
"As a former player, the players need and want to be having the best competitions in this part of the world for the players to play in.
"That is what the various unions and umbrella organisations that sit around the table have got the responsibility to do.
"I would be enormously disappointed if I was not playing in the best competition of all, having played in that competition many times before.
"It is a wonderful competition and it gives us an edge that every country in Europe would be foolish to under-estimate.
"We have all got the same interests at heart because Ireland, Scotland, France, Wales and Italy all need a successful World Cup as well. It is in our best interests that we all play each other."
ERC, who currently run the European and Challenge Cups, have invited all interested parties to another meeting in Dublin on October 23.
Meanwhile, English club owners were due to meet on Wednesday to clarify their stance in the ongoing saga – which mainly involves money and qualification issues – and the Rugby Football Union are keen to find a resolution.
Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the RFU, said: "It is important for the game as a whole – English rugby and European rugby – that we get these negotiations settled. They have got to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
"We want to see a meritocratic competition in Europe, not only in terms of the competitive element, but in terms of the financial distribution, and obviously our clubs are very keen on that."