With the French and English rugby federations making noises about setting up a new competition consisting only of themselves, could we be looking at the end of the European Cup after eighteen years? Perhaps. After all, it must be galling for these two large countries to see the likes of Munster, Leinster and Ulster winning the tournament, not just once, but six times out of eighteen.
And much though it irks me to admit it, they have a point. Munster, Leinster and Ulster are not clubs in the same sense that Northampton, Gloucester, Toulouse or Clermont might be. They’re not independent entities, but simply various manifestations of the IRFU and what’s more, there are many devoted club people who consider the provinces a positively bad influence on club rugby in Ireland.
Munster Rugby has siphoned off the best of the best from local clubs, just as it has reduced attendance at local matches. It now dominates rugby in what many would consider an unhealthy way.
Perhaps this threat from the English and the French will flush out the truth. Perhaps people will stop thinking of Munster as a thing to be loyal to, and I have to say that even though I’ve taken great enjoyment from their exploits, I can see the point.
Maybe clubs like Garryowen, Shannon, Bruff, UL Bohs or Cork Con might not be able to compete at the same level as the likes of Toulouse or Clermont, but what would be wrong with setting up some new clubs that people might genuinely buy into? Limerick. Cork. Blackrock. (Sorry. Just joking).
I truly think that a club called Limerick could take on the big names and generate the support needed. It would also get rid of the pernicious IRFU involvement that has rubbed everyone up the wrong way and created the correct perception in Europe that the Irish were pulling a bit of a stroke.
Maybe the Brits and the Frogs are doing us a favour. What do you think?