Oval Talk

Cockerill’s salary cap excuse not valid

Oval Talk

With the Heineken Cup group stage now at an end, the issue of the salary cap has reared its head once again.

No surprises that the loudest complaints came from the mouth of Leicester Tigers' director of rugby, Richard Cockerill.

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Cockerill says the salary cap makes it difficult for Aviva Premiership teams to compete in Europe

"I don't think you have the financial clout to compete at the very top end, especially if you have injuries," Cockerill said.

"You haven't got the money to have the depth of the squad. That's not a criticism of anybody - that's the fact of it."

Cockerill's comments came after Leicester's 41-7 defeat away to Ulster, who are not exactly the biggest spenders in the world of rugby. The result left Leicester third in their group and effectively knocked them out of the competition.

Had Leicester been hammered by one of the big-spending French sides, he would have had more credibility.

When you compare Leicester's squad to Ulster it does make for interesting reading. Leicester have 47 players in their first-team squad while their Irish counterparts have a modest 39.

What's more, Leicester work within the Premiership's £4m salary cap so Ulster cannot exactly be accused of spending obscene amounts of money. Even when you look at the French teams, who seemingly have bags of money, only Toulouse have really dominated their group.

Cockerill is simply saying what his club want to hear and it also cleverly deflects some of the pressure away from himself for failing to make the quarter-finals.

Leicester, along with Northampton, Saracens and Bath, have all pushed for an increase in the salary cap as they feel only then can they compete with the Top 14 and Rabobank Pro12 teams.

This is very much up for debate when you see how Northampton did last season in the competition and how Saracens have done this year by topping their group, which included Biarritz and Ospreys.

One change that would be beneficial would be to make the rules for qualification fairer. At the moment the English and French clubs have to fight on two equally-important fronts; they have to avoid relegation and qualify for Europe. For the teams in the Pro12 this problem is almost non-existent; particularly for the Welsh and Irish.

In European rugby it is only the Premiership, the Top 14 and the Pro12 that matter, and with 24 Heineken Cup places up for grabs, why not allow the top eight from each of the divisions qualify for Europe?

It would make things a lot fairer and offers a different solution to throwing money at it - which invariably does not solve anything.

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