Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Leicester Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill has pleaded with rugby???s powerbrokers to save the European Cup.
The English and French clubs have served notice they will not participate in the European tournament after this season and have indicated they will not enter further negotiations.
But Cockerill, who lifted the trophy twice as a player with Leicester Tigers, hopes the competition can be salvaged - providing the Celtic nations accept compromise.
???At this point the English and French are out and there is no European Cup next year," he said.
"But everybody would like it to work and an agreement for it to continue in a format acceptable to all parties.
???It???s very important to have representation from all of the countries but it has to be on the right terms ??? that???s what the whole argument is about.???
As it stands 10 teams from the Pro12 are guaranteed participation in the top tier tournament with both Italian and Scottish sides qualifying regardless of league position.
The Anglo-Franco breakaway want to reduce the European Cup from a 24 to 20 team tournament with just six guaranteed qualifiers from the Pro12.
Cockerill said: ???In the Premiership we have to battle hard every week to qualify for Europe. Qualification for the competition from each league should be the same.
???Why is it all right for Leicester, Bath or Wasps not to be in Europe but it???s not all right for Munster, Leinster or one of the other Pro12 teams?
???If you want it to be the best tournament you have to qualify by being in the top six and if you???re not you???re not. That???s what applies to us and it should be the same in the Pro12.???
There are numerous other elements to the dispute with broadcasting and governance of the competition the major sticking points.
But Gloucester head coach Nigel Davies, who also enjoyed a four-year stint in charge of the Scarlets in Wales, reckons the tournament too good to leave by the wayside and believes the Pro12 teams would accept change.
???It???s disappointing that we have got to this stage, with no resolution and have known about it for a long time," he said.
"The Pro12 teams see the sense in that and it would bring jeopardy to that league like we have in England.
???One of the goals we set ourselves at Gloucester was to get back into the European Cup because it???s such a fantastic tournament ??? arguably the best in the world with some of the best players.
???The supporters want to watch it, it???s a big part of their season and why they buy into clubs, the players are desperate to be in it because the level of competition and development, and coaches want to coach in it.???
Players were equally despondent about the situation. Northampton's Dylan Hartley reached the final in 2011 and he insists that it is essential any new tournament includes representation from across Europe.
"It???s disappointing, I???ve been so close to lifting the trophy and it???s something I would like to do as a player," said the England international hooker.
???They are the big games - it???s as close to the internationals as you can get. Playing in a final at a packed out Millennium Stadium was fantastic.
???If you are going to have a European Cup you have to include everyone in Europe in it. If you want to say you???re the champions of Europe you have to beat everybody.???