Jake White: ‘Unfair’ Champions Cup scheduling to be rectified after bigwigs ‘privately agree’ 

Colin Newboult
Jake White Bulls director of rugby URC 2024 - PA.jpg

Bulls director of rugby Jake White.

Jake White says it has been acknowledged by the Investec Champions Cup hierarchy that the Bulls, as well as other teams in the quarter-finals, were hampered by the schedule.

The South African side’s head coach stated that the “decision-makers” – presumably the EPCR – accepted that travelling long distances with just a week between the games was unfair.

White was criticised ahead of their clash with Northampton Saints for fielding a second-string outfit, which resulted in a 59-22 hammering at Franklin’s Gardens.

La Rochelle’s issues

They were not the only outfit to struggle having flown from South Africa, with La Rochelle having to travel from France to play the Stormers in Cape Town in the round-of-16 before heading to Dublin for the last-eight contest.

The winners of the last two Champions Cups were comprehensively outplayed by Leinster as Ronan O’Gara’s men fell to a heavy 40-13 defeat.

O’Gara never used the travel factor as an excuse but, according to White, the bigwigs conceded that putting La Rochelle and the Bulls through such a strenuous schedule was wrong.

If White’s comments are anything to by then there could well be changes next season.

“After the results on the weekend, privately, it was agreed that the knockouts need a week’s break in between round 16 and the last-eight. From a logistical point of view, I must applaud that,” Bulls’ director of rugby wrote in a RugbyPass column.

“Decision-makers have seen that it isn’t fair for a team to travel those distances with that tight turnaround. Indeed, perhaps those scorelines needed to happen for people to understand the schedule’s imperfections.”

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White defended his decision to select the team that he did, insisting that he did not devalue the Champions Cup by naming a second-string outfit.

“Contrary to popular opinion, not for a second was I trying to undermine the competition’s integrity. I want to make that clear,” he wrote.

“I didn’t put all that work in in the pool stages just to throw it away. In my 31 years of coaching, I have never entered a competition I haven’t wanted to win.

“I understand there was a lot of talk about us fielding a Bulls B-team. I get it. I understand people want to see the best players play all the time.

“In principle I agree with that, however, if you want to see the best players all the time, something in the game’s calendar has to give.”

Using the full squad

White also stated that the governing body stipulated that teams must register a 55-man squad, which he believes gives him the opportunity to rotate where necessary.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup winner added: “I should also explain that EPCR ask you to register 55 players at the start of the season, so why is it a sin to use the squad you’ve registered?

“Will there be a new caveat saying you can’t use your wider squad in a play-off game? As the season’s crowded schedule unfolded, I thought that was the game I could use some fresh faces, to give it a crack.”

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