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European cup 'most prestigious': Mauger

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/04/2016 Nick Purewal

Former All Blacks centre Aaron Mauger believes the European Champions Cup is now the "most prestigious competition" in club rugby.

Mauger helped the Crusaders to four Super Rugby titles between 2000 and 2007, but conceded he feels the tournament has been "diluted" by recent expansion.

The Leicester Tigers head coach will come up against former All Blacks team-mate Dan Carter in Sunday's Champions Cup semi-final showdown with Racing 92 at Nottingham's City Ground.

Mauger will exploit his inside knowledge of sharing All Blacks and Crusaders backlines with Carter on Sunday, but may cause some raised eyebrows in New Zealand for rating Europe's top club competition ahead of the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby.

"I think the Champions Cup is getting bigger, a bit more so now as I believe Super Rugby has been diluted by adding extra teams, which is a bit of a concern for them down there," said Mauger.

"I think the European competition is probably the higher-quality competition, because you've got all the best teams, especially at this stage, you've got teams who deserve to be there in big games.

"I think it's probably the most prestigious competition.

"The Premiership as well, it might not necessarily be the highest-quality competition, but it's probably the toughest.

Mauger, 35, who played 46 Tests for the All Blacks, is wary of Carter's influence at Racing.

"The first time I heard of Dan he was playing for Christchurch Boys' High School... I knew it wasn't going to be too far away before he was wearing a red and black jersey and a black jersey.

"He's probably been the difference for Racing this year, even though you don't want to pin too much on one person.

"He'll back himself to play what's in front of him, but we've got to back ourselves to take that time and space away from him, limit his options and put him under pressure."

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