Champions Cup: Clermont great Morgan Parra unhappy over South African inclusion

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Clermont Auvergne legend Morgan Parra believes that the Champions Cup has lost its aura and history by bringing the South African teams into the equation.

The former France scrum-half is an experienced campaigner and featured in three top-tier European finals for Clermont in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

In its 26-year history, French, English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian sides have competed for the trophy, but franchises south of the equator have now been added to that list.

Benefit of joining the URC

With South African teams joining the United Rugby Championship, the EPCR have allowed the Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions to compete in both European competitions.

The former three will enter the Champions Cup after finishing in the top-six of the URC, while the Johannesburg-based outfit will be in the Challenge Cup.

Bloemfontein’s Cheetahs have also been accepted into the second-tier tournament, despite not being in the URC, and Parra, who now plays for Stade Francais after leaving Clermont, believes that it is wrong.

“I’m going to be honest. It’s a great experience for the players who are going to face these franchises but for me, it’s no longer called the Champions Cup,” he told Midi Olympique.

“Before, it was the European Cup – with real meaning and history, too.

“I have nothing against the Southern Hemisphere, but it is no longer the European Cup.

“Let it be called something else and say that the European Cup no longer exists.

“And it’s the same for the Challenge Cup, it no longer exists.

“For me, the two competitions should not be played with South African teams.”

Leaving Clermont

Parra began his career at Bourgoin but it was at Clermont where he made his name, spending 13 distinguished years at the club.

The 33-year-old decided to leave at the end of last year, however, joining Stade ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, and the scrum-half insisted that it was the right time to move on.

He added: “When you are young, you watch on TV the great teams that lift the Brennus Shield and the European Cup.

“Me, I saw Brive and Toulouse (win in Europe), so I wanted to be among them. We came so close that year. This final perhaps forged me a little more, and also made me grow.

“All this is part of my story and even part of my life, but I made the choice to discover something else after having asked myself for a long time the question of extending at Clermont.

“ASM was entering a new phase of their project with a lot of changes. It was the right time to leave.”

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