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Saracens likely to stage Heineken Cup game against Biarritz in Cape Town

Saracens, the English champions, are in negotiations to stage their Heineken Cup pool match against Biarritz next January in Cape Town, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The ground-breaking move has yet to receive official sanction from the tournament organisers, the European Rugby Cup, the Rugby Football Union or the South African Rugby Fooball Union, but it is understood that none of the three bodies is opposed to the concept.

Saracens are due to face Biarritz, who lost the 2010 Heineken Cup final to Toulouse, at Vicarage Road on the weekend of Jan 13-15.

However, it is understood the RFU has received a request to stage the game in the South African city, either at Newlands stadium or the Cape Town Stadium, which was constructed for the 2010 football World Cup.

Edward Griffiths, the Saracens chief executive, confirmed last night that the north London club were exploring the options to stage the game in Cape Town, having already committed to hosting their Heineken Cup match against the Ospreys in December at Wembley.

“The idea of playing one of our Heineken Cup matches in Cape Town has been mooted, and it is appealing in many ways, but our first obligation is to protect the interests of our supporters,” Griffiths said. “We have made contact with ERC, the RFU and SA Rugby, but we are primarily engaged with our season-ticket holders to explore how, either by compensation or other means, we can make this work for them.

“On a broader level we are a genetically innovative club and, with the permission of ERC and the respective unions, the sponsors and other stakeholders, we would be eager to showcase the strengths of top-class European rugby on a grand southern hemisphere stage. It’s an increasingly small world.”

Saracens, who earlier this month announced the signing of Springboks captain John Smit, will be meeting with representatives from ERC, the RFU and the SARFU in the next three weeks, with a decision expected within a month.

Biarritz are also understood to be keen on the proposal.

Saracens also hope to satisfy the tournament broadcasters, Sky Sports, by staging the game at 7pm local time, 6pm UK time, on Jan 14.

Saracens are optimistic the plan will be given the green light by the RFU board after Wasps were granted permission last season to play their LV Cup match against Harlequins in Abu Dhabi.

Saracens’ Heineken Cup match against Clermont Auvergne at Vicarage Road last season attracted a crowd of less than 6,000, while the projected attendance for a match stage in Cape Town is over 30,000.

Meanwhile, England’s top clubs have stated that they hope to be consulted by candidates standing for the vacant position of RFU chairman in the wake of the fallout following the sacking of John Steele as chief executive.

The clubs completed a two-day conference in Birmingham yesterday and Premiership Rugby chairman Quentin Smith said they were “ready to help” following the events at Twickenham.

“We would expect prospective candidates for the RFU chairman position to meet with us to discuss the issues for the professional game. We shall now channel this through the Professional Game Board,” Smith said.

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