Irish lead the way thanks to S.E.X factor
I wonder - what do Scottish, Welsh and English teams have to do to catch up with the Irish provinces?
Because, if you fancy a wee bit of burglary on 19 May then pick Dublin or Belfast on the Heineken Cup final weekend as most of the residents will be in London. Can I have a Ferrari please?
Well done to Ulster and Leinster as they progress to the final thanks to "S.E.X": scrummaging, experience, and the X-factor.
Glasgow have a chance to make amends in the league, but at the highest level of European rugby Scottish teams have been lacking in the most marginal sense.
I thought Edinburgh played superbly in Dublin when they took on Ulster but the first scrum of the game sent a very obvious warning. Both packs went down, it was Ulster's put in, and the Ulstermen marched forward. Oh dear, it was going to be a long afternoon at set-piece and that's what happened.
In Bordeaux where Leinster took on Clermont Auvergne the Irish scrum started by creaking, but by the end of the game Leinster's eight were holding their own.
Scrums still win or lose matches.
Ulster beat Edinburgh 22-19 in the Heineken Cup semi-final
Experience counts for everything and here's where the two Irish provinces scored over their rivals. Ulster fielded four Springboks, whereas Edinburgh had Tom Brown and Matt Scott in the back division, and, while both played well, nobody, save themselves, would have guessed during the summer that they would have starting berths for Edinburgh. Matt is a law student.
I can't criticise anything Edinburgh did and I am on record as saying that Michael Bradley has helped them toughen up and play a more direct game.
Edinburgh were valiant but Ulster's power and experience through Ruan Pienaar and Johann Muller proved key. Leinster fielded Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip, All Black Brad Thorn, Isa Nacewa, and Richardt Strauss.
Scottish teams have not been able to sign that calibre of player at the top of their game since Todd Blackadder was in his pomp.
The X-factor is harder to define.
At one level players like Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien for Leinster appear to be "talented". You could say the same about Rory Best and Stefan Terblanche. But I suspect they have superb coaching and when you look at both Ulster and Leinster they do a lot of the simple things very well, above all keeping the ball when they have it, and disrupting possession.
I like the way Irish teams play. I think Irish teams are well coached and well prepared and I am guessing at a big pool of talent to support and threaten the top players. When I was in Dublin at the weekend they were showing Garryowen taking on Ballymena in the Irish cup and, if I am honest, those guys looked closer to the professional level than Scottish club players.
The Irish X factor isn't Elaine C Smith playing Susan Boyle in her life story in a Dublin theatre (as she was this weekend) no, it's a strength in depth and a coaching pool of talent that is multi-national and highly paid.
Other teams have to learn from Ireland. There's a motivated grass roots. A handy number of provinces in four, they do their best to keep their best players in the country, and it looks to me as though they are a step ahead of the rest of us.
Edinburgh had nothing to be ashamed of, Glasgow have a chance to turn over Connacht and challenge for the league, but the Irish teams are moving ahead.
How do the rest of us catch them? Give me your ideas and I'll have a think.