Conference A is tougher than Conference B. The Irish (and indeed the Welsh) teams have a tougher schedule by the virtue of the fact they must play tougher derbies. The Champions Cup places continue to be a mess with teams being able to finish lower and qualify based on where theyre from. When you have to play in SA will make a huge difference, you could go from a frozen snow covered pitch one week to playing in 30 degree heat the next. The SA teams will also likely be strawberry floated come the end of the season with all the travel. The playoffs could be a nightmare for travel. eg. The Cheetahs last regular season game is at home, then they play in Glasgow for the quarterfinals, then get a home semi final, then the final is in Cardiff. Its an unlikely scenario but its a gooseberry fool load of flying in a 4 week stretch if it does happen.
In my opinion the European leagues play a higher standard of rugby than Super Rugby do, the New Zealand teams and the Lions would do just fine in Europe but the rest of Super Rugby would struggle, so I don't understand how bringing in 2 teams what were deemed not good enough to compete in what could be classed as a lower league is a good move for the Pro 12. I understand its going to bring in more TV money but the big problem Super Rugby has is empty stadiums because you get zero away fans and its impossible to develop a rivalry with a team thousands of miles away. The Pro 12 already suffers from a milder version of this, adding in 2 teams based over 8000 miles away from the rest of the league wont solve this, it will just add to the empty stadiums problem.
Cheetahs fans getting to see Munster or Leinster come to town might sell tickets but will Connacht move the needle down there? What about when the Kings come to Edinburgh, Scottish fans can barely be arsed to watch Edinburgh play anyway, why would they bother to show up to see the worst team in South Africa? The Kings vs Treviso could have free entry and no-one would show up for strawberry floats sake.
I'm definitely intrigued by it as an idea, I love the Pro 12 but its an infuriating league to follow, you have some of the best teams in Europe but the standard is pulled down by the bottom feeders of European rugby. Adding 2 Super Rugby cast offs is unlikely to change that, one thing it will do is provide a comparison point for Europe vs Super Rugby which will be interesting but ultimately of little real value. I want to see the league succeed and as a sport I want to see rugby grow but I don't see this being the right way of doing it, for my money pushing into the larger European markets combined with a semi-pro D2 is a better use of resources.
I didn't agree with the Champions Cup shrinking and smaller teams being excluded from the Challenge Cup, I believe you need to give these teams something to shoot for. Having a proper league structure with German, Spanish & Belgian representative sides alongside some of the bigger Romanian and Georgian clubs in a second tier league with promotion and relegation to the Pro 12 would give these teams a path to top tier competition and do more to grow the game and light a fire under the Italian teams than adding a couple of unwanted southern hemisphere teams.
Of course this, like promotion and relegation in the 6 Nations, will never happen because Georgia, Romania, Germany etc don't bring big money to the table and no-one wants to risk getting relegated from Europes top table just because they have 1 down year. I guess until that mindset is changed we will continue to see those kinds of moves from the Pro 12, including a rumoured push into North America in the next 18-24 months, a place that just saw its own pro league fold without making a ripple. Weird but interesting times ahead for the "Celtic League".
I'm certainly going to give it a go. The top teams in the Pro12 are equal to anything in Europe, however the worst teams are frankly appalling.
There has been one change though Rax, Champions Cup places are no longer decided by country but by placings now. No more country protection! So this will be the last year of an Italian side in the Champions Cup till they get their act together.
Yeah I saw that, its a good move but its muddied then by the addition of the SA teams again. You could even have the situation where the Pro 14 Champion doesn't qualify for the Champions Cup, which would be a very odd situation. Apparently there will be talks between EPRC and SA Rugby to allow the SA teams be eligible, so that could sort out that. Then things would get really interesting, the Lions, Bulls etc would likely want a piece of the Champions Cup money so we could see the South Africans abandon Super Rugby altogether in favour of competing in European competitions.
Ruck laws changed for 6 Nations because wittle Engwand didn't like being made to look daft by big meanies Italy.
5. Law 16 A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used. This law will put an end to the no-ruck tactic employed by Italy in last year's Six Nations when they caught England by surprise in the first half of their encounter at Twickenham. Rationale: To make the ruck simpler for players and referees.
In other "making it simpler" arrangements:
Tackler playing the ball
4. Law 15.4 (c) The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from their own side of the tackle "gate". Rationale: To make the tackle/ruck simpler for players and referees and more consistent with the rest of that law.
Rax wrote:Yeah I saw that, its a good move but its muddied then by the addition of the SA teams again. You could even have the situation where the Pro 14 Champion doesn't qualify for the Champions Cup, which would be a very odd situation. Apparently there will be talks between EPRC and SA Rugby to allow the SA teams be eligible, so that could sort out that. Then things would get really interesting, the Lions, Bulls etc would likely want a piece of the Champions Cup money so we could see the South Africans abandon Super Rugby altogether in favour of competing in European competitions.
Think the Pro14 is heading to an even bigger shakeup in the future. I already heard that one of the current Super Rugby teams wants to move when the SANZAAR contract expires in 2020. You add all 4 of them in plus the rumoured American and Canadian franchises and we are potentially looking at a 3 division structure in a few years time.
I saw some interesting speculation on Twitter that this could be the stay 2 of seeing regular rugby contests being organised by time zone rather than hemisphere, i.e. the break up of super rugby, and more of the European sides playing South African sides, some kind of pan American championship, and Japanese and Australasian sides competing against each other.
Obviously, you run into the issue of it being the height of summer for some sides whilst it's the middle of the season, but it could be a really interesting shake up, at the very least for international sides, who are used to playing through the off season.