Hurray for the return of the Heinek- oops, sorry we can’t call it that any more, even if they are the only named sponsor to date. Well, hurray for the return of European rugby, which certainly needs a name that is less of a mouthful.
Brian O’Driscoll was recently asked that, given the hostility to the European Champions Cup in the Irish media, who describe it as a vehicle for French and English clubs to claw back ground they had lost in the Heineken Cup, was it the way to go?
“I am not sure that it favours France or England” he diplomatically replied. “It provides more of a level playing field. The Heineken Cup was good for Irish rugby and Ireland was good for the Heineken Cup, but I think it is hard to argue against the change.”
It is early days yet but there have been seven European Champions Cup fixtures pitting Premiership against Pro 12 sides. And the score in this little game within a game? Five to the Pro 12, two to the Premiership, with Munster leading the charge thanks to two wins out of two against English opposition.
The structure of the competition may have changed, but the desire of the Irish to beat the English has not gone out of fashion.
On the whole, the more concentrated nature of the tournament compared to the old Heineken Cup seems to have improved the quality of the rugby, but only slightly. Many of the games were tight affairs with plenty of good rugby on show. Whether it is significantly better, or more competitive, than the Heineken Cup was, will take a little longer to establish.