On Saturday at 3pm a new era in the Pro 12 will be born. This year saw a heightened level of significance materialise within the league, as European qualification became solely hinged on Pro 12 table position. It might not be too much of a stretch to say that this relevance somewhat snuck up on some of the teams, with Leinster in particular leaving it until the penultimate game last week to secure qualification. Connacht, Edinburgh and Scarlets too are all finding themselves vying for the last ticket to Europe this weekend too. It is a pleasant sight to see seven teams in the table all still with some tangible reason to give it their all on the final weekend, here’s how they’re shaping up. Continue reading Pro 12 – Knock Out Battle To Come
When the European Rugby Champion’s Cup was announced the cries from this side of the pond were that the new structure was essentially designed to stop the Irish teams from winning all the time. Whilst not exactly true, this Round 6 weekend and the subsequent knock out lay out has shown exactly what is different about this new structure. The goal was to make the competition more competitive, and no team is seeing this more so than Leinster. In previous years a home quarter final was all but a guarantee of progression to the semi finals. This was down to the void that often existed between the top 4 and bottom 4 teams. However, with four less teams and therefore more competitive pools you would have to say that nobody, bar Toulon, has anything resembling an easy route through the quarter finals. And of course the draw for the semi finals can be cruel as always with Leinster likely facing down a Toulon in France engagement should they get past a resurgent Bath. Simple.
It’s bad, it really is. Munster and Ulster are out of contention in the European Rugby Champion’s Cup. For Munster this is the campaign that began with Ian Keatley channeling Ronan O’Gara and sealing the opening win with a sumptuous drop goal. For Ulster, it hasn’t looked too good all season but damn it hadn’t once looked this bad. Leinster and Connacht now carry the European hopes for Ireland as north and south must regroup. Continue reading European Rugby – Munster And Ulster Bow Out
New competition, new beginnings and a chance for Munster to reclaim some of their former glory. That is what awaits Anthony Foley’s men on Saturday when they travel to meet Saracens. It is getting tired and it is beyond cliche to say it, but Munster are a backs to the wall team at their finest moments. When all is required and all can be lost, that is when Munster sincerely find their place in European Rugby. There is no better recent example than that exemplary performance against Harlequins in 2013 when Munster were all but written off and came out blazing to send ‘Quins home licking their wounds. Of course, these scenarios don’t always go their way but there seems to just be a little in the air to suggest that won’t be the case this weekend. Continue reading European Rugby – Munster Face Down Their Biggest Milestone
Round 2 of the European Rugby Champion’s Cup and already we’re looking at a whole new playing field. Ulster VS Toulon, Munster VS Saracens, Leinster VS Castres and Connacht VS Exeter. Certainly far more fitting and mouth watering challenges for the provinces, and though it may be true that you don’t lose any competition in the first round, the second is where those short fallings and mistakes can be made that haunt you for the rest of the season. Continue reading European Rugby – Time To Separate The Men From The Boys