Mumm and Baxter eager for a fair resolution to European Cup dispute
Exeter Chiefs captain Dean Mumm and head coach Rob Baxter have stressed the importance of European Cup rugby to the club, while calling for a fair qualification process going forward.
The Chiefs' second Heineken Cup campaign, and possibly their last, gets under way in less than two weeks when Cardiff Blues visit Sandy Park.
European rugby's top club competition has proven a valuable learning ground for the Devon club but its continued existence is under threat.
English and French clubs are planning a new pan-European Rugby Champions Cup for next season, as the dispute over qualification and the allocation of financial rewards from clubs' involvement in Heineken Cup rugby continues.
The value of such a top-level competition is significant to Chiefs in numerous, more intrinsic ways, according to Australian lock Mumm.
He said: "This is still only our second year in the Heineken Cup so the excitement is still very much alive.
"It was a wonderful opportunity to play against teams like Clermont and Leinster last season. And luckily enough, this year, we get the chance to play against sides like Cardiff and Toulon.
"The Heineken Cup and European club competition is extremely important and it is certainly viewed very enviously in the southern hemisphere because it is such a good competition.
"The structure of it and then the stress associated with the knock-out rounds makes it a great competition. We certainly have our fingers crossed that there will be a similar competition.
"Rob says it quite a lot, we are a club that likes to be very ambitious and we want to continue moving forward.
"If you want to be a big club, you have to perform well in Europe. That is the reality to it, that is the benchmark. It is about how you perform in the Premiership to give you the opportunity to play in Europe and subsequently the chance to play against really great teams.
"We want to break new ground again this year and continue to improve our European Cup history."
Baxter added: "The Heineken Cup is very important. First and foremost for me as a coach, it is a fantastic player development tool. The players relish it, you play against some of the best players in the world and it is massively important.
"The things that we have learned in the Heineken Cup have made us a better Premiership side."
The formula for any Pan-European club competition is simple, says Baxter.
"Sometimes politics and money entwine to make common sense go out of the window," he said.
"The way to look at it, and maybe it is a very English, Premiership way of looking at it, is that if you were starting from scratch on a European competition based on three leagues, what would you do?
"You would have qualification based on the top six, top seven or top eight – depending on what sized competition you wanted – and then you get on with it.
"I don't think you would say, we will have everyone from one league and half from another. And if you're taking equal allocation from each league, you would split the funds equally.
"We're all fighting for the same thing and I don't think it is stretching things too far to ask how you would create the competition from scratch. It is the easiest way of looking at it."
For now, Baxter and his men will continue to focus on performing well in the Premiership. They lost 21-9 to Leicester Tigers last weekend and face a challenging trip to Gloucester on Sunday.
They will only worry about Cardiff's Heineken Cup visit to Sandy Park on October 13 after their own journey to Kingsholm.
Baxter said: "I'm very keen to ensure we don't get too carried away with ourselves in the Heineken Cup, we have some very important games in the Premiership to come.
"It's like anything, we need a successful foundation in the Premiership to allow us to push on in the Heineken Cup games. You don't want worries in too many competitions in one go."