A RADICAL new approach to European qualification has raised the stakes for both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh in next season's Guinness PRO12. The rule change means the top seven teams will qualify automatically, pulling away the safety net that required one side from every competing country to be given a place.

The most immediate victims would seem to be Italy, who have not managed to get a team into the top seven since 2013, but they were among those welcoming the change: "I would have no problem with it starting next season," said Alfredo Gavazzi, the Italian Federation president. "We agreed to vote in favor of this amendment, which is fully consistent with the development path undertaken by FIR for the last year, since the arrival of Conor O'Shea."

There was a similar reaction in Scotland, the other country with only two professional teams and so at the greatest risk of missing out of top-tier competition and the income it provides. "We are fully supportive of the change," said a spokesman. "We welcome the meritocracy approach and the clarity it provides."

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That represents a change of approach from the Scots. When the Heineken Cup was scrapped for the current set-up negotiated in 2014, they were one of the countries determined to make sure that all the shareholders in the European competitions were guaranteed at least one team in the main Champions Cup tournament.

Since then, Glasgow Warriors have qualified every year by right and even though they only managed sixth place in this season's PRO12 – the final automatic qualifying spot for next season's Champions Cup – the Scottish union are obviously confident that is as bad as results will get. It is six years since neither Scottish side finished in the top seven.

The main beneficiary could be Edinburgh, who have often finished just outside the qualifying spots. Though they were well off the pace this season, a year ago they were only four points off seventh place; the two seasons before that, they were only two points and three points away. With new coaches and players they must feel they could close that small a gap without having to change much.

The other big change to the qualifying process will also give Edinburgh a second route into the Champions Cup, with the second-tier Challenge Cup winners automatically going into the following season's senior tournament. Edinburgh reached the quarter finals this season and the final in 2015 and feel they have the capacity to do even better.