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Cup has worked wonders for Irish game

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    Cup has worked wonders for Irish game

    <DIV =LeadPara>Cup has worked wonders for Irish game.</DIV>
    <DIV =LeadPara></DIV>
    <DIV =LeadPara>Not even in Tom Kiernan's wildest dreams could he have envisaged it panning out quite like this. There's arguably never been a better year for Irish rugby than 2006, certainly not in the professional era, and there's undoubtedly never been a better competition for the game here than the Heineken European Cup. So it was fitting that it took its latest end-of-year break with another clean sweep by the Irish trio. </DIV>
    <DIV =LeadPara>When historians trace the remarkable rejuvenation in Irish rugby they will assuredly date it back to Ulster's 1999 triumph and Munster's epic march to the 2000 decider. It's all flowed since then, and accordingly all of the 14 clean sweeps by the Irish triumvirate have come since the 2000-2001 season. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>The latest was marked by excellent individual performances all over the place: Peter Stringer's razor-sharp skills, the potency of the number eights Denis Leamy and Jamie Heaslip, the emergence of Trevor Hogan (possibly the best performance of his career so far) and Darragh Hurley, the brilliant opportunism of David Humphreys, and on and on. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>Nor were Irish heroics confined to the Irish provinces. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>Following Simon Easterby's awesome all-round performance for Llanelli against Toulouse, there was the sight of Shane Jennings and Geordan Murphy at their brilliant best for Leicester. Once again you see Murphy's visionary ability to serve up tries on a silver salver for team-mates and wonder why he isn't used more like that in an Ireland jersey. It remains an enigma wrapped in a riddle. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>Yet Leicester, and Gloucester, continue to loom large, while Toulouse's remarkable capitulation was bad news for Ulster. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>So on the premise that nothing serves as a better barometer than at least one, preferably two and ideally three provinces in the last eight, if the gloom and doom was a little overplayed exactly this time a year ago, so too would undue optimism be now. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>Realistically, about 15 teams (including Ulster) remain in contention, with only the Italian trio, the Scottish duo, Cardiff, Bourgoin, London Irish and Toulouse out of the running for those cherished but dastardly difficult last-eight places. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>The climax to the group stages looks like it will be as enthralling as ever, with perhaps only four, and no more than half-a-dozen, obvious dead rubbers over the final two weekends, and the Welsh rejuvenation and probable participation in the last eight is good for the tournament. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>One is loath to disagree with Munster coach Declan Kidney, especially when it comes to the umpteen permutations the last round or two of the pool stages invariably throw up, but the dramatic 88th-minute bonus point Munster claimed on Saturday could yet give them invaluable room for manoeuvre. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>Whatever Leicester do at home to Cardiff on Saturday, January 13th, Munster must match the next day against Bourgoin in Geneva to retain their four-point lead going into the spine-tingling, emotional Thomond Park farewell clash between the Irish and English standard-bearers. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>If that is the case Munster will have qualified for the last eight with 22 or 23 points but would need at least a bonus point, while denying Leicester one, to top the group and earn a home quarter-final. </DIV>
    <DIV =TailParas>Of course, losing at Thomond Park is not an option. Effectively, as Kidney has maintained all along, they're going to need six wins from six. </DIV>
    Seas suas agus troid!


    If the French do not compete in the HEC next year,a prospect that is not at all far fethched, thenit's impact on the Irish game will be greater than our NH competitors.

    The French and English domestic teams will survive and prosper because of the strength of their league, TV contracts and rising attendances. Their international side will benefit from rested players.

    Scotland have never seriously threathened a qtr final spot, and the gate money lost by not playing another game in front of non-existent crwods is irrelevant.

    The Welsh do not believe that the Irish treat the Magners with much respect (although that would certainly change if fears come true)and already have a Anglo-Welsh tournament to pick up some slack, and my strengthen it further.

    Irishprovinces benefit enormously from the financial and playing benefits of European competition. Were the French to withdraw, the English interest would wane, and the Irish game would suffer.

    Who would we play to sustain our well-hone game? Could we retain talent within our game if the prospect of a diminshed HEC (assume worst case scenario that French withdraw foir not just one year). Would the game's profile in Ireland drop dramatically without the prosepct of playing on the Europeanstage and the coverage of the success we enjoy on it?


      We'd surely form a stronger magners lge with the welsh and scotish not as strong as the HEC but with all the intl around every wk it would make for good TV etc also we could try and break into the anglo welsh cup. so there are a few options out there i no the TV contracts wudnt be great for the first few yrs of the Mangers put wit a bit of profile and a yr or 2 of all the intl playing it wud be better than the premiership and also do more for the development of younger players as it gets stronger better quality being played than current standrads and players being rested young lads coming into a stronger team not just as now happens 10 changes from HEC team for a magners lge clash we dont really no what standard the fringe players are after a magners lge game at present.



        Lads be under no illusions we need the HEC, the ML is growing and is now a top tournament in my book (it generally takes Ulster to win the competition for the tournament to become big[img]smileys/wink.gif[/img]) but we really need the HEC. Change the format if needs be, my choice is 8 groups of 4 with an extra knockout round but please don't let it flounder in a pool of French arrogance.


          If the English and French did pull out it would be inteteresting to see the affect on end of season mid table matches with HEC spots gone would be affected, particularly in the UK. Although they could end up re-jigging the anglo welsh cup to augment the league
          "Some people don't know their easy lives... I wouldn't be so ungrateful" - Fiacre Ryan - #AutismAndMe


            Have the English actually threatened to pull out? I haven't seen or heard that threat.




              dont get your knickers in a twist- the English clubs are going nowhere, ditto the french, they are all just posturing for the renegotiation of the accord (HEC agreement)that will happen later this year.

              basically we need the RFU to stand up to the English clubs, and fully (over)compensate them for intl. players being gone and then they will be getting something out of the deal, ditto the French, and then the clubs to get a bigger divy from their unions also. Job done when it is agreed and it will be.

              Blanco and Peter Wheeler &amp; all these fellas will be playing silly buggers till then but that's what will happen, its just a question of how much. simple.
              Munster were great when they were Munster.

              alas they are just north munster now.......


                I reckon you're right Daithi. However something needs to be done to sort out the income the tournament makes. There is no way the EDF Cup should be worth more to GP sides than the HEC.



                  how long do shy have the rights for currently?

                  "Some people don't know their easy lives... I wouldn't be so ungrateful" - Fiacre Ryan - #AutismAndMe



                    Originally posted by blackadder
                    I reckon you're right Daithi. However something needs to be done to sort out the income the tournament makes. There is no way the EDF Cup should be worth more to GP sides than the HEC.

                    And once again I'll repeat: the HEC does NOT make less money than the EDF. The GP clubs do not get as much TV/sponsorshipmoney directly from the competition because of the way it's divied up. That's what they're complaining about. However,that money is only part of the story; the publicity, gate receiptsand merchandise sales thatthey get as a result of HEC participation all contributea lot of revenue, which of course they have neglected to mention.

                    Saying that they only get a few hundred thousand from theHEC and way more from theAW Cupis propaganda to try to get people on thierside and give them control of the running of the comp.


                      Heard the French are VERY serious about givig the HEC comp a miss next year.