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Irish rugby star Brian O’Driscoll. Photo by: Getty Images

Brian O’Driscoll frets as top English and French clubs quit the Heineken Cup

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Irish rugby star Brian O’Driscoll. Photo by: Getty Images

Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll is alarmed at proposals by top English and French clubs to quit the Heineken Cup.

The former Irish and Leinster captain fears for the future of Europe’s top tournament if the French and English go ahead and form a breakaway competition.

O’Driscoll wrote on Twitter, “Catastrophe if the HCup finishes. Can understand both sides’ argument. Growing the game Vs best teams/broadcasting revenue.”

Dricco made his remarks after IRFU boss Philip Browne warned the professional game in Ireland is under threat if the French and English break from the Heineken Cup.

Browne said, “The IRFU funds the entire game of rugby in Ireland. What happens if there is just an Anglo-French club competition? Italy and Scotland will fall followed by Ireland and Wales. International rugby will be destroyed.

“This Anglo-French suggestion threatens the future of all rugby outside of France and England. If the English and French clubs hoover up all the playing talent in Ireland what happens to our international team?

“If we can’t maintain a professional game in Ireland will enough of our players be playing in England and France to allow us to field an international team? The answer is no.

“The future of the professional game in Ireland, and in other nations, is at stake, and it’s time for the IRB to wake up and smell the coffee. That is how serious this issue is.”

Ireland full-back Rob Kearney has warned that the top Irish players will follow the money to France and England in the event of a breakaway.

Kearney, newly elected chairman of the Irish players’ union, said players would have to move with the money.

He said, “I think you’d have to, absolutely. Although it may not be under the Heineken Cup or the ERC, we want to be playing in the big competition with the best teams under the big TV deals, filling out stadiums and so on.

“That’s what benefits the game and we want to play in those big matches and occasions. If it does go through and we do end up linking up together, at least we’ll still have a competition with the same countries involved and where the standard of rugby is still high.

“There’s no doubt about it that if the English and French clubs aren’t in the Heineken Cup it’s going to be detrimental to the game, and it will have knock-on effects to the Six Nations if guys are just playing in their league without any step-up to European level.

“Come Six Nations time you’d expect that the standard of rugby is going to be diminished a bit. So, something does need to happen about it. It would be a huge blow. It’s pretty unnerving to see.”

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