EURO ROW NOT A DISTRACTION
THE future of the Heineken Cup will not derail Gloucester's recruitment plans for next season, pledges boss Nigel Davies.
Kingsholm chief Davies does not see a quick European resolution, with politicking between clubs, unions and domestic league bodies hitting overdrive.
But the Cherry and Whites rugby director has backed Gloucester to strengthen their squad for next term – whether English clubs are in European rugby or not.
Former Wales centre Davies questioned the merit of European rugby minus the English clubs, backing the power of the Premiership to ride out any medium-term continental storm.
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Premiership Rugby still insist there will be no more negotiation with Heineken Cup organisers ERC.
The English clubs' ruling group and their French counterparts Ligue Nationale du Rugby are hell-bent on forming the Rugby Champions Cup for next season, trying to corral the Celtic sides along with them.
The Heineken Cup is worth in the region of £800,000 a year to Gloucester.
But the new BT Sport television coverage deal could stand to net the Cherry and Whites more than double that figure – in sums BT believe can be mirrored across the European spectrum.
The worst-case scenario for English clubs is the Heineken Cup surviving all the insubordination, and the Premiership sides being left in the wilderness next season while every other nation continues on.
While that is still certainly the nuclear outcome, the implication of English clubs out in the cold would leave obvious funding chasms.
Davies remains confident Gloucester have the financial health and potency to ride out any such eventuality – and confirmed he is able to press on in retention and recruitment undeterred.
Gloucester have already moved to tie England centre Billy Twelvetrees down to a new Kingsholm contract, and are now working methodically through the sizeable list of 23 remaining stars whose deals expire this term.
Davies explained: "The Heineken situation wouldn't affect our recruitment, we'll be absolutely solid.
"And we're looking to improve our squad year on year anyway.
"When you have certain strengths in certain positions it highlights potential weaknesses, and we're constantly looking to improve that.
"The Premiership stands on its own two feet, it's a big tournament, with big independent clubs.
"Look at the crowd and the passion of the supporters from both clubs at the weekend, and the fact a club like Exeter can still work methodically and establish themselves in the league.
"Premiership clubs will still be able to thrive in all of that next season.
"And if English clubs aren't in Europe, what value is there on a European competition anyway? I don't know.
"What I do know is that in terms of our budgeting and our focus and our recruitment, it does not differ."
Gloucester dip their Heineken Cup toe by hosting Perpignan at Kingsholm on Saturday (6pm), desperate to hit back after a lacklustre 29-12 Exeter Chiefs defeat at home last weekend.
Davies has every faith his side can shrug off that reverse – their third league defeat in five matches this term – and start their Heineken quest in style.
The former Scarlets boss believes Gloucester overturned their Sale and Saracens defeats by seeing off Northampton and Newcastle – and has backed them to shake off Sunday's Exeter loss too.
He continued: "Everyone is hugely frustrated with that performance, but the team is better than that, far better than that – I absolutely believe that.
"It's all my responsibility, and I will pick the players up.
"We bounced back from the first two games of the season and we bounced back really well.
"And I expect the same thing to happen again.
"One thing we've done constantly in my time here is we've bounced back from defeat.
"When you've got momentum things are easier and we've got to generate it all over again.
"I'm very positive about this group of players, sometimes more so than they are in themselves – and that's something we'll address too."