Heineken Cup the best – Anscombe

Date published: October 15 2013

Ulster boss Mark Anscombe has lauded the Heineken Cup as a competition that affords the opportunity to go up against the best.

Ulster boss Mark Anscombe has lauded the Heineken Cup as a competition that affords the opportunity to go up against the best.

The coach points out that the allure of such a prestigious tournament can often entice Southern Hemisphere players to head for Europe.

“Southern hemisphere players come north because of the European competition and the prestige that it has,” Anscombe told the Belfast Telegraph.

“That pits them against the best players in the northern hemisphere.

“There are a lot of great players spread out in this competition – from England, France, Wales, Scotland, Italy and, of course, Ireland. It is this competition – this Heineken Cup – that gives all these guys an opportunity to play against one another.”

With the future of the tournament under serious threat at present, Anscombe is hoping for a swift resolution among the sport's powers-that-be.

“For the good of the game you hope common sense prevails when decisions are made as to how things are going to go,” added Anscombe.

“Because the game is bigger than one owner, or one club, and we've got to remember that.

“Sometimes we lose sight of what it's all about. But when all is said and done you want to perform against the best. You want those tests. That's why we play this game.”

The coach recognises the unique tests the Heineken Cup can provide for his players, and the new, higher levels of performance it can help them scale.

“We all like to be comfortable, to have 30 points on the opposition with a quarter of an hour to go so we can relax,” stated Anscombe.

“It's not a great feeling when there's only one score in it and the opposition is hard on your goal-line.

“But at the end of the day, everything you remember in sport comes down to how you did against the big guys. If it's an individual sport, you remember that occasion in the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games or the World Cup.

“So maybe, judged alongside those competitions, that meeting in Birmingham or Belfast doesn't mean as much.

“And it's the same with players in rugby. Again it's being on the big stage against the best. They're the games you're going to remember and they're the games that will still be talked about in 10 or 20 years' time.

“Playing on the big stage in Europe challenges us to be able to handle pressure, to sustain pressure, to work hard as individuals, to work for each other, to challenge each other, to be honest in each other's performance and just to keep going for 80 minutes when you've got absolutely nothing left.

“That epitomises this game and that is what this competition requires of us.”