Former Leinster and Ireland hooker Bernard has strongly criticised the European Challenge Cup saying that he does not think the competition is sustainable in its current format.

Currently head coach at Grenoble, Jackman has seen his side lose their first two games in the competition to Cardiff Blues and London Irish.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Jackman said that he saw the competition as a chance to rest his first-team players and that there was little purpose in taking it seriously.

“The Challenge Cup is from my point of view a bit of a pointless competition in terms of your first-grade players,” Jackman said. “It’s a great opportunity to give guys game time.

“The second competition over here, the Espoirs, is under-23s only, and you can have one overage player.  So we have guys, 27 or 28, who don’t get to play for us probably as regularly as you’d like.

“So for them it’s a case of giving them two weeks in a row to get 80 minutes under their belts and prove that they’re ready for a first-team place; [it’s also] to rehabilitate guys coming back from injury, and get game time into them; and also to have a look at some of our young French guys who in our academy.”

"I just don’t see it being sustainable in its current format" - Bernard Jackman

Jackman criticised the fact that the Challenge Cup did not offer any route to qualification for the Champions Cup, by contrast with its predecessor the Amlin Cup.

“There is no real benefit for us unless we go and win it,” he said.

“And even if we do go and win it we wouldn’t be guaranteed a place in the Champions Cup for next year.

“The best scenario for us if we want to get in the Champions Cup is to finish in the top six in the Top 14, and that’s obviously a huge ask.

"Certainly, the only way we could possibly look at that is by managing our resources smartly, and giving our first-grade players six weeks off during the Challenge Cup.”

He said that Grenoble were not alone in adopting this attitude towards the Challenge Cup, and that it had failed to take hold with fans and other teams alike.

“If you look at all the French clubs, they’ve all been putting out pretty weak sides. Stade Francais went to Bucharest and only won with a penalty in the last minute.

“It’s great for the second-tier to get an opportunity to play the big sides from the Aviva Premiership and the Top 14, but I just don’t see it being sustainable in its current format.

“I think that the organisers have probably got a bit of a shock from how little interest the French teams have had in it.

“And the public as well: the minimum crowd we would get for a Top 14 game is 14,000; London Irish at the weekend we got 4,500. The public aren’t silly and you can’t pull the wool over their eyes: they see it for what it is.”