Ruckedtobits wrote: ↑
November 17th, 2020, 11:43 am
Various iterations of the Celtic League / Magners / Rabo / Guinness Pro XII /XIV have been running for 20 seasons now. One evaluation of the League's strength or weakness over the entire period can be assessed by the quality of the Coaches of the winning teams.
Wales have won through Llanelli and Ospreys, both multiple winners and well coached by various excellent Coaches including Lyn Jones, Gareth Jenkins, Sean Holly and Wayne Pivac. Scotland through Glasgow Warriors under Gregor Townsend, have won once. Munster under Declan Kidney and Alan Gaffney are multiple winners. Ulster had their sole success under Brian McGloughlin. Connacht had their sole success under Pat Lam.
Certainly Leinster have been the dominant team in the league but with coaches of the calibre of Cullen / Lancaster and Joe Schmidt, this is hardly surprising.
Perhaps however, if there is a flaw in this theory, it is the discovery that one of the winning coaches was Matt O'Connor. Maybe the exception that proves the rule that good coaches win leagues whilst good players just beat opponents.
There have been some good coaches who have been unsuccesful in the Celtic League competitions over the years, but not many. Edinburgh, Dragons, Cardiff and Treviso have been the perennial under-performers. However in any National or international (very rare) league competition for a team field sport, to have 50% of the competiting teams become champions over a 20-year period is evidence of a competitive environment.
Premiership rugby has had only 9 winners since 1987 and only two, Sarries and Exeter, over the past seven seasons. The Top 14 has had only 7 winners in the professional era.
Neither of these competitions are condemned as regularly by the supporters of the different teams and the results in France in particular are heavily weighted in favour of home teams
Facts are not nearly as satisfying as emotions when it comes to writing about the performances of 'your' team.
How many teams win the competition, or how good a coaching ticket for a given team has, are kind of separate to the main issue with our league.
Leinster dominating a league, although demoralising for other teams, is not what is wrong with the league.
The biggest issue for me is that it is a league that week in week out, is played by severely under strength teams.
A good example of this would be how few games the likes of Murray and Sexton and most other first choice internationals play each season.
Any league where your best players have single digit appearance numbers highlights the quality of the league.
As supporters we will follow our teams no matter who is playing, that is not an issue, and we can still take great joy from it.
But as supporters we also must accept that when we pay to watch our team play, for most games we are watching 2 weakened teams playing each other.
We must accept that at no time in the regular season will we get to see our best team take to the field, and very rarely, if ever will we see an almost full strength team.
I definitely think that this league has merit, it has allowed Leinster to build a formidable squad, thus improving depth at international level.
But it is very short sighted to not see the obvious failings and weaknesses of the league, and even more short sighted to compare the Pro 14 to the like of the premiership or Top 14, and draw a conclusion that the pro 14 is on par.
The PRO 14 is a sub par, development league IMO.
We often hear statistics about how well pro 14 teams perform against there counterparts in the HC, but in reality, the team that is playing in the HC is not the same team that plays in the PRO14.