Nicol, a former Glasgow Warrior, spoke out as fears grew among supporters of Warriors and Edinburgh that their teams could lose the right to an automatic place in Europe's premier club competition. He said a switch to entry based on finishing positions in the RaboDirect Pro12, or a Champions League-style qualification system, would be justified and would add excitement to the season, though he added the rider that he believes that every one of the countries which contest the RBS 6 Nations should have at least one representative in the competition.
Nicol, a former Lions scrum-half, made history in 1998 by becoming the first Scot to lift the Heineken Cup when he led Bath to victory against Brive in Bordeaux. He said: "I think a meritocracy is the right way forward. We've been here before with France and England: they are the two biggest boys in the playground and they flex their muscles every so often. But I think they have a point in certain aspects of the European game. I think it does need to be looked at because I don't agree with the qualification standings as they currently are.
"What they are doing here is a bit of brinkmanship. I don't think they are saying we are definitely not doing the Heineken Cup as we know it next season. They are saying 'let's move things along a bit quicker'. I believe there was something like 40 differences between the various parties and that's down to about 10 now. They are getting close and this is just another push."
Nicol stressed: "A change would up everyone's game. It would make the tournament more credible, and would make end-of-season Pro12 games more competitive for the top teams from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. In the last few years, Glasgow would have qualified by merit and Edinburgh wouldn't, so they would have been in the Amlin Cup. I think that might be okay, because we should reward success. As long as every country is represented. If neither of the Scottish sides were in the top six say, then I think the better-placed team should still get in. The Amlin is a good-quality competition. Take a look at last year's quarter-finals: six were former Heineken Cup winners.
"There is no doubt the Heineken Cup is what everyone wants to be in but, if you deserve to be in the Amlin, that's where you deserve to be."