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How about a British & Irish League?

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John Beattie | 09:07 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

I think it's time we had a British and Irish League.

The Welsh would like to play with the English, the Irish would like to play with the English, and the Scots would like to play with the English. Oh dear, I wonder what's holding it back?

My theory on countries is that we are all just split up by lines that someone drew on the ground hundreds of years ago.

Newcastle and perhaps even Manchester are closer to Glasgow and Edinburgh than they are to Bath and Gloucester and it's just a hop to Ireland and Wales.

Anyway, there we were after the stirring 33-11 Glasgow win over Gloucester on Friday night and local captain John Barclay came to join us on BBC Radio Scotland.

"What really motivated us," he said. "...was watching Sky this morning when Will Greenwood said that Gloucester would definitely beat us and it was a banker for them."

glasgowgloucester595.jpgNow, Will Greenwood is the best rugby pundit on the box bar none and he was a fantastic player, but there is this attitude that permeates the English Premiership where, despite the public utterances of some coaches, you get the feeling that they don't really respect Scottish teams and underestimate the Magners League.

The Heineken Cup has been played 14 times with four French winners, six English winners and the Irish, bless them, providing four wins for the Magners League.

I watch Magners League rugby every weekend and I enjoyed seeing Edinburgh pushing Bath all the way in Sunday's televised Heineken Cup game.

Perhaps it's too easy to compare leagues and talk about the Magners League being more open and flowing because the threat of relegation isn't there, but there is a smidgeon of truth in it.

Premiership rugby is as intense as it comes with careers on the line every weekend and I love it.

But sometimes a Magners League game can get you off your chair with rugby that's a touch more open. Though, hand on heart, it's marginal.

The Magners League has hosted star names like Todd Blackadder, Darryl Gibson, Doug Howlett, Rocky Elsom, Christian Cullen and others, although finances now dictate that Glasgow and Edinburgh rely almost exclusively on home-grown players now.

The big question is whether the English teams would want any more to do with their Celtic neighbours.

In football, they don't because to have your own exclusive club means that you keep the revenue and if Irish, Welsh and Scottish teams were to join a league then some English teams would miss out and be relegated to secondary status. The same rationale would apply to rugby.

English rugby is a fantastic thing, with players from around the world brought in to provide glamour, and, crucially, wins as well. But you know what would make it better? Bring in the Irish, Welsh and Scottish...


  • Comment number 1.

    This already happens, they call it the Heinken Cup. What would be the point of such a competition if there were a British and Irish league?

  • Comment number 2.

    I think the Irish are happy enough with the Magners league... Allowing you lot (English) to play in another competition with the Celtic nations would mean the death to the Heineken Cup... And sorry no offense meant but keep your ideas of another Anglo Celtic Rugby tournament...

    Besides this the Celtic nations their teams are largely funded by the respective Unions to bolster their National teams... In the EPL teams are franchises...

  • Comment number 3.

    John, I totally agree with your comments. Glasgow beat Gloucester, no surprise to those who watch the Magners League. A few weeks ago, the Scarlets beat London Irish up there. The English press, shock, horror. Why the surprise. Welsh teams have won the last two EDF Anglo Welsh cups. The only downside as far as I can see is that it may improve the standard of English rugby. How is it they serve up such stodge in the Premiership, but put them up against the French, or Magners teams and the can look quite good ?

  • Comment number 4.

    The only way I could see this happening would be to hold the Heineken Cup every two years allowing an Anglo Celtic cup to be held in the same format. France could then go off and do the same with the Italians, Portugese and another nation to bolster the playing standards of those lesser nations, although I think the French might have something to say against that..

  • Comment number 5.

    John, may I respectfully suggest that you wind your neck in? To be fair (and yes I am Irish), the European Cup has been won 4 times by the paddies!! To suggest "bless them (sic), providing four wins for the Magners League" suggests that that is all the Irish teams concentrate on. May I suggest you review the games from last week? Leinster for example went all out for the HC even to the extent of putting a 2nd/3rd rate team into the ML. The Magners for the Irish teams is not the be all and end all, we aspire to bigger and better things (you DO know what I am talking about!!).

    Onto the Premiership, to be fair the quality of the games is really not that good. The games have been ruined by too many foreign imports (and true the Irish teams are guility of this too but not to such a huge extent!!)!! I would much prefer to watch Ospreys v Munster than Harlequins v Sale any day of the week and twice on Sunday!!

    Having said that nothing holds a light to the 6N!!

  • Comment number 6.

    A silly suggestin really. How long before someone would have the inspirational idea to invite the French along? And sure the Italians are pretty good too, and we need to grow the game. They should get a couple of spots as well. Oh, hang on. We already have that competition!

    I can understand why the premiership (yawn) might like the boost that glamour opposition might bring. But what's the benefit for, by way of example, the Irish sides? I can't see any benefit apart from maybe the economics, and even that would be marginal.

  • Comment number 7.

    very interesting, John - no, not your comments on a British league, but the view that Will greenwood is the best rugby pundit on TV, 'bar none'. I find him excrutiatingly sycophantic towards the English teams, and his use of totally outdated and cliched terms, to describe his views, is toe-cringing. Even Eddie Butler (as a mere commentator I admit) is more palatable, and that's saying something!

    As to a British league, it'll never happen without intensive TV exposure, and as long as SKY supports the English Premiership, with top players from all over the world, it wont happen. However, if the Premierhip, now top heavy with foreign players, continues to undermine the quality of the English national side, and the majority of the top Welsh, Irish and Scottish players remain at home, we may see a shift towards a British League.

  • Comment number 8.

    Why would the Celtic nations want the English teams in their league?

    Celtic league works wonderfully. It is a breeding ground for success. Wales have two recent Grandslams. Scotland have used the league as a platform for recent successes at club and national level. Two teams sitting pretty at the top ofthe league and a win over Australia in the Autumn.

    "and the Irish, bless them..." 3 of last 4 names on HEC are Irish. Last two winners of Magners League. Throw in a couple of Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam for good measure. Lets not forget the 5 wins from 6 against England since they lifted the WC.

    We the Celtic Nations do not need English rugby bringing us down. We're doing fine.

  • Comment number 9.

    I ve always thought that the BBC and the "British" (English!!!) media have in the most part ignored progress in Scottish sport and seem reluctant to give Scottish sport credit for anything apart from curling!?! They get all upset when Andy Murray says he's scottish not English - deal with it people - does it really make a difference. Any Scottish victory or bit of good play is tweaked by the media so as it seems that the opposition side lost the game and that Scottish skill or discipline - was not the cause for their success.

    For around 4/3 year i have been predicting the rise of scottih rugby. All you need do is look at the evidence.
    Glasgow and Edinburgh - topping the Magners League
    Edinburgh - best finish ever last year
    Scotland 7s - first plate victory and semi appearances
    London Scottish - building once more
    Several seasons of Scotland A success and relative success with full Scotland XV as well. England and France have not won at Murrayfield since 2003. Beat the Argies. Should have beaten South Africa. Have beaten Australia.
    Andy Robinson installed as new coach - with pedigree.
    Two professional clubs sides very settled with good coaches.
    Scottish Rugby Union - have reorganised the whole of Scottish rubgy over the last 5 years.
    Plus our youth sides have been performing superbly well against the odds in their tournaments. Last under 20s? six nations was a real success for the Scots who only had one player or maybe two who had a professional cap compared to England who could play nearly a full XV of young professionals - yet we still perfrom admirably. I believe we came a very close second having beaten Ireland, Wales, Italy, France? but loosing in a tight game to England - welldone the lads.

    All that needs to happen is that the players perform - we now have the talent - and the strength in depth - to perform at the highest level.

    In terms of an Anglo-Celtic league - no thank you! Theres a reason why the English play rubbish rugby. Their rugby is stodgy - their league is stodgy - their international side is stodgy. It will not happen for a while but maybe in a decade or two when rugby has spread further around Europe and put down roots - the Heinekeen Cup will become more of a European Cup which would incorporate Romanian, possibly Georgian, Dutch, German, Scandanavian, Russia etc sides. This could possibly open the door to a Anglo-Celtic arrangement - a club version of the 4 Nations - the Home Nations? The Six Nations may become a west or northern European international cup with a rival southern or eastern cup - leading to a knock out of the two leagues best sides. I can't wait till something lie this comes about. Its not too far away aswell i believe - the Germans and Russians especially have taken to rugby recently and are dominating their world cup qualifying matches.

    Rugby - if given a chance - a chance that encourages flying attacking play - could conceivable in 3,4,5 decades time - start to compete globaly with football. Why? you might ask? Football is not a real mans game - its great fun but especially in this increasingly paranoid, health and safety orientated, claustraphobic world - rugby will appear the more enticing game - physical, fast, dynamic and hopefully with an aura of gentlemenly uncorruptability and resolve compared to the horrific state that football finds itself in.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with Bernard, silly suggestion. The Magner's League would be foolish to allow the English to join as it would prevent several of the Magner's League teams from qualifying for the Heineken Cup. It would also take much of the spectacle out of the Heineken Cup. I also can't really see the benefit for the English clubs. Why would they want to leave the EPL and join the Magner's League? They have a television deal with Sky and excellent attendances already. There is no desire to see a British and Irish league from sets of fans in either the Magner's League or the EPL I would say. I think you're in the minority there John!

  • Comment number 11.

    If we could keep the anti-english stuff down to a dull scream, that would be nice.

    I would like to say that in terms of attractive rugby, the Magners compares favourably with the english premiership, and the view that the Hawks would be a 'done deal' for Gloucester was laughable - at least to me it was, although I wouldn't dream of comparing my opinion with the great Will Greenwood.

    John's ideas are usually interesting,, and this one's no different.

    The things I wanted to ask the fine folks out here is as follows:

    1. Is the Magners more attractive because there's no relegation?
    2. If there were a British league, how would relegation and promotion be decided (unless the purists out there think that the recently invented scottish regional teams should not be relegated, ever, and to hell with what these teams have done to Kelso, Melrose or Jed Forest)?

    A small point: the best rugby pundit (in my opinion) in Jonathan Davies - and I'm English - but I've lived in Scotland for many years - so I'm confused!

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry but I don't see why the English teams would want this? As you say the Irish, Welsh and Scottish sides would love it and want to play the English but, not wanting to sound too selfish, what's in it for us?

    I don't think it would add anything to the league and would diminish from the much higher level of intensity that we enjoy in the premiership. Next to protect themselves the Magners League sides would probably insist on not having relegation. This to me is an essential part of any league giving sides in the lower league hope of moving up and the incentive for the lower sides in the league to keep fighting right to the end of the season.

    Also why would I want to see a 3rd string Leinter side put out as they wait for the competition they're really interested in? I prefer to see full strength teams play not the A squad with a smattering of academy players. Watching two sides not really interested in a result is not my idea of top quality rugby. This seems to be happening more and more within Magners League games and makes a mockery of having a league system at all.

    Finally I'll say this that I'm happy to allow any of the Magners league sides to join the english league system. However they should have to do it as any new side would have to. Playing from the bottom to gain promotion to the top level. Thus having to earn it rather than having it handed to them on a plate which seems to be the normal way of doing things in the Magners league.

  • Comment number 13.

    To suggest a british and irish leaugue would be ridiculous! i currently play in national 1 and can tell you that through this !new" league the relagtion of clubs down would ruin the respective promotion and relegation of these lower leagues for a while when someone like bath drop to the championship and thump everyone for a year!

    the premier league is better anyway because of relegation it means players get used to winning game sinstead of just throwing the ball around! hence why england have won a world cup and been in the final again too. maybe its not prety rugby but we always end up at the top end the world rankings unlike the welsh and irish come world cup time!

  • Comment number 14.

    Forget the British league, just expand the heineken cup. Its what we all enjoy the most. Just switch it from six groups of four to four groups of six. Four extra rounds, so you'll have to elbow the anglo welsh debacle.

    Groups of say:
    A B C D
    Munster Tigers Leinster Toulouse
    Bath Rugby Biarritz Stade Francais Cardiff Blues
    Perpignan Ospreys Northampton Saints Gloucester Rugby
    Scarlets Clermont London Irish Sale Sharks
    Harlequins Glasgow Dragons Ulster Rugby
    Edinburgh Treviso Viadana Brive

    How appetising would this be? Top two qualify for qaurters. I wouldn't worry about dead rubbers. Your place finish would affect your ranking next year.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sorry John, another who strongly disagrees with you here.

    I see no possible incentive, be it financial, competitive or fancentric for the Magners league sides to want to get involved with the English Premiership.

    If the players were playing each other week in week out, we would definitely lose some of the added intensity when the 6 nations or Hene cup comes around... and that is in the stands as well as on the pitch.

    Financially, the addition of the English clubs may improve attendances in the short term, but once the buzz wears off, it will be back to the levels it is at now.

    In terms of the impact on competition, both Wales and Ireland have ruled the 6N recently, and Scotland are now starting to get a grip on the sesmic changes the move to professionalism has had on the Scottish game.

  • Comment number 16.

    ...the Irish would like to play with the English...

    Genuinely the arrogance of some commentary defies belief. As an Englishman that has lived in Ireland for 9 years (8 years as a season ticket holder for Leinster) there is absolutely NO reason as to why "the Irish would like to play the English" in a league.

    The Magners league has gone from strength to strength, developing talent on a stage where, by bringing in a small amount of overseas talent (look at the work that LeRoux has done in the background developing the likes of Cian Healy as one small and recent example), has developed Irish rugby to the level that is at today.

    The condescending attitude from you John, is even more incredible as you are a Scotsman?!? Surely you of all people would understand how much the English underestimate anyone else's ability to play the game. Yet there is so much that could be gained from taking the lead from the IRFU, stop bringing in so many foreign players and actually let premiership become a breeding ground for English talent.

    It has to be said that the ENGLISH would be the ones lucky to play in the same league as the Irish! They could certainly learn a lot more about developing a game that is still stuck in the mire of "stick it up your jumper" and trudge forward that is the turgid English game.

    It is with embarrassment that I watch my national team (England) play the same monotonous game, using the same tactics that are no longer valid in the modern game. Bigger is NOT better, but the focus of rugby (at club as well as country level) seems to be all about developing size and speed...not about the finer arts of rugby.

    I would love to know if, on reflection, you will actually think "the English would do well to learn from the Irish", as an Englishman living here, I genuinely believe that we can.

  • Comment number 17.

    To answer TonyK:

    1) I don't think that the Magner's League is more attractive because of the lack of relegation. I just think that there is more interest in playing expansive rugby from the teams involved. Welsh teams have a long history of playing running rugby and the Irish and Scottish sides are now in a place where they have the players to do it if they want to. The Irish have moved on from the dark days of the 90s and the Scots have been improving immensely over the last couple of seasons. It's more down to the ambitions of the teams rather than the threat of relegation I would say. After all, with Leeds in the EPL, are any of the big sides really concerned about finishing bottom? It's too simplistic an explanation.

    2) If there were a British&Irish league then you would have to have free promotion and relegation (maybe 2 up, 2 down), you couldn't have quotas for each country in the top tier. This is why I think the Celtic sides would be mad to let the English in. About half the teams in the league would lose their places in the top tier and the increased revenue that would bring.

  • Comment number 18.

    One major point that has not been made on here yet is the emphasis on priority.

    English clubs have a focus on achieving success only for themselves.

    The Celtic teams have now created provinces, destroying some of their history and tradition (e.g. the merger of Swansea and Neath) but creating a focus instead on the needs of their respective national teams.

    If Glos and Bath merged, as did Leicester & Northampton, Saracens and Wasps, etc, etc, to create new "regions" the standard of player would increase. They could play less games, meaning they were less injury-prone and better rested and prepared for the Internationals.

    I'm sure this would have a good effect on the England team...but who would be interested in supporting these teams?! Certainly not the Glos, or Bath, or Leic fans...

    There is a trade-off between the club and international game. Wales and Ireland have made their choices but I think the English clubs are happy to keep the status quo and I for one agree with them. International rugby is so limited (England got to the World Cup final in 2007!), with only a handful of teams genuinely able to compete, that I don't think it would be worthwhile sacrificing 100's of tears of history just to midly improve the international prospects.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hear hear, Brandy. You only have to look at the poor attendances in the supposedly rugby mad Wales to see that the general public have yet to take to the provinces concept. Ireland was different because there wasn't a huge following for the club sides anyway so moving towards a regionalised system was easy. England should never move towards it as there is too much history involved in the club sides to relegate them to feeder teams for provinces. There are enough players in the English system to support a club system and a successful national side without resorting to provinces. This was not the case with the Celtic nations.

    Having said that I think the English system needs tweaking as there is too much emphasis towards foreign talent and there is not enough management of the top players in terms of games per season. I don't know how many games a fully fit English international will play in a season but I'm under the impression it's considerably more than an Irish international. Purely from a player welfare point of view this must be addressed.

  • Comment number 20.

    TonyK, Glasgow's pro team is the Warriors--the Hawks are the premier 1 team.

  • Comment number 21.

    John your wish is granted! There IS a British & Irish competition, featuring 12 English, 6 Welsh, 3 Irish and 3 Scottish teams.

    Now, I'm a Munster fan. So I used to watch the Heineken Cup for full-blooded rugby, and the Magners League to spot new talent coming through. But for a few years now the Irish teams have been taking the Magners League a lot more seriously. Leinster may have fielded a 'second-string' side 2 weeks ago but that was an exceptional case, as they had to rest their internationals after the Autumn Series.
    Generally the Magners League games have become very competitive, with very few victories taken for granted. Now if I want to see new young players getting a run I have to check out the B&I Cup.

  • Comment number 22.

    Just to keep people up to date - I believe that ESPN will be showing GP games from next season.

    Personally I wouldn't see any benefit for anyone in a combined home nations club league.

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with much that's been said, but one important point is being overlooked in comparing the different unions' approaches. The IRFU contracts players centrally, and that is the most important piece of the puzzle. There is no club or country debate, it simply does not arise.

    I'm not sure the RFU could use a similar model as I imagine it could be counterproductive. It's a shame for England but a blessing for the rest of us.

  • Comment number 24.

    Good blog John but predictably followed by the usual boring anti english sentiment that we always get when discussing subjects such as this. Agree with the comments made by Brandy and RobH...EP needs adapting to protect the international players more. Ultimately, any move towards a British and Irish league will be made by the money men within the media and the clubs themselves. I think the respective leagues as they stand are fine for the forseeable future.

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree with Thomas, looking at the success of the super 14 in the southern hemisphere with the respective air new zealand cup and currie cup in new zealand and south africa, i feel this could be applied to Europe. The teams would become franchises, covering larger parts of the country, it would create better support as there would be more access and overall more competitive rugby. Super 14 teams play a fantastic style of rugby that is fast and expansive. this may be down to the conditions and the styles of rugby these nations play, i feel it is partly to do with the skill level and profesionalism that is gained from having a larger frainchise that can attract the top quiality players.

    By creating a league that covers all of the home nations and france, the competiveness should increase, making the games more fun to watch and should cause improvements for the International sides themselves. If i had my way i would continue the magners league and guiness premiership in the same vien as the air new zealand cup, meant to feed the larger franchises that cover that clubs region.

    Surely this would make the game more exciting and more supporter based, i myself find that i do not support a guiness premiership team. I recently read on BBC Rugby that some players belive the Heiken Cup to be of the same standard as International Rugby, surely we want to promote this type of regional competition??

  • Comment number 26.

    "John, may I respectfully suggest that you wind your neck in? ...the European Cup has been won 4 times by the paddies!! To suggest "bless them (sic), providing four wins for the Magners League" suggests that that is all the Irish teams concentrate on. " Adam Meehan.

    Adam - maybe you should be the one to wind your neck in. If you read properly what John had written, you'd see that he wasn't referring to the Magners League. He meant that Irish teams won the Heineken Cup 4 times 'representing' the Magners League. So he's not suggesting that the Magners League is all the Irish teams concentrate on, which they've won 5 times since it started in 01/02 and won the Celtic Cup in the two seasons it was played.

    The reality is that the Magners League is a more protected league. That has its benefits and drawbacks. There's been less games up to this season - though play-offs and the arrival of the Italian teams will change that in the next couple of seasons. There is no relegation, so it's easier to rest senior players some weeks, linked to the requirements of the respective test teams - which has certainly benefited Ireland. However, the new Elite Player agreement in England is forcing coaches to think more about when they will use players with enforced rest periods coming in. Because the clubs are privately owned, the money to attract 'big-name' players or 'big-wallet' players is there for a few of the clubs, though a number of them are teetering on the brink of financial chaos this season. The TV audiences for the EP are much greater because of the available TV audience, though not as big as the terrestrial stations get when 6 Nations are on. The English clubs are a business, and that places financial and performance pressures on them that the Celtic clubs don't have to endure.

    The notion of a British and Irish League is worth considering in the context of developing greater strength amongst the NH test teams to compete with the SH teams and in the World Cup. The reality is that only England have been in World Cup finals - three of them - and won one. The Celtic nations are still nowhere. The French aren't either, but that's another story for another day.

    The NH club teams - particularly the French and English - play much more games than their southern counterparts. Playing time has to be reduced - for injury and performance reasons.

    The creation of a two - probably three - tier Celtic and English league would have its attractions. A premiership with 10-12 top teams based on recent performances - calculated by a combination of league and H Cup performance - would be the pinnacle. It would have relegation and promotion of two places. The next or Championship Division would have 12 teams drawn from all quarters including possibly Italy, again with relegation and promotion in place.

    The Cup competition would still be the European Cup but with possibly 18 teams at most drawn from C & E Premiership and the Top 14. This could be played in longer bursts either side of 6 Nations.

    The re-structure could allow for the emergence of club franchises in England - London Irish and Wasps have already paved the way on this when moving from their birth territory - and would pit together some fantastic playing combinations. Inevitably the cream would rise to the top however, and the premiership would dominate in a big way. Hopefully this would help to improve performances and skills at test level and allow NH teams from England, Ireland and Wales to compete better with a WC semi-final appearance a real possibility every time for at least 7 or 8 teams as opposed to the 5, maybe 6 at the moment.

  • Comment number 27.

    In response to the Irish folk who have taken exception to this - I did say that the Irish had won the Heineken cup four times and "represented" the Magners league. And not for one second did I mean to decry Irish ambition and suggest that they "needed" to play the English. It's more that, well, if I was Irish as in Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht, I'd want a crack at Leicester, Gloucester, Wasps and the rest much more often than is provided by a random draw in the European Cup. As a Glasgow man that's what I'd like for us and Edinburgh too.

    And I am not anti English - a Border, as I said, is a just a line in the sand with one lot having "stolen" one side and decided to call it a country.

    It just seems the world has changed. As a kid we got the boat back to the UK from Borneo on leave. Now people fly. A trip to London from Dublin forty years ago was a tad rarer than a regular Ryanair runabout - my father in law got the bus from East Lothian to Glasgow, a boat from Glasgow to Belfast, then a train to Dublin to watch an international in his day.

    The whole world is shrinking and just as the Five Nations went to SIx, and the Tri Nations is going to four, so I think it would be logical to have a town based British and Irish rugby league.

    Wouldn't it be magic?

  • Comment number 28.

    Sorry, just come back from a day's work in Manchester and saw the stuff on youtube with Ferris being gouged. Man, oh man, oh man.

    Life ban for gouging, surely!

  • Comment number 29.

    Big_steph. Thanks for that, partner. Then again, hardly a surprising mistake for me - I keep trying to find out where Gosforth play now!

    RobH-CSM, thanks for your thoughts, too. I'm just wondering with respect to 'expansive' rugby, sometimes I feel we're trying too hard to make it pretty. It's not that many years since the All Blacks picked the biggest blokes from all over the Pacific and beat many colours out of their opponents - not to suggest in any way they do that now (before anyone complains). Also, the last three world cups all seem to have been won by the teams with the best defensive capabilities, not attacking. Is this a bad thing? Or just pragmatic?

    John - I'm with you on the gouging thing, and it seems to be getting rather too common - witness the first Lions game in SA this time. When I played, I remember getting a few punches (maybe I did that once or twice myself) but I don't remember anyone gouging. Maybe I'm too innocent.

  • Comment number 30.

    John I think the term 'bless them' was construed as being in a condescending tone. I certainly thought it was. And ask yourself if you were a Wasps fan would you like a crack at Glasgow, Cardiff and Ulster more regularly? If that doesn't sound as good as the examples you gave then you can see why people think that some EPL supporters think that the Premiership is considerably stronger then the Magner's League and don't give the successful ML sides the respect they deserve.

    As a Leinster fan I would much rather see 2 separate leagues and the Heineken Cup, rather than some sort of European Super League or indeed the H Cup only taking qualified teams from 2 leagues (French and B&I). I think the magic of the H Cup is that you don't play these teams every week and they often have a different approach to the game than the teams in your domestic league. Vive la difference I say, and keep EPL and ML leagues separate.

  • Comment number 31.


    Ah, I see what you are saying. No, bless them was as in thank you and it was a genuine thanks not meant in any other sense at all.

    I see your point too - but if I try to glimpse into the future then I think I see logic to a British and Irish league. I know what you mean by the English thinking their teams are considerably stronger than the Magners league, and that's really what prompted this. I think the Celtic teams would bring a lot to the table, and vice versa. I know what you say though.

    Oh, and Rangers and Celtic should join the premiership - it's bonkers that they aren't in it and Wigan, say, are. But that's a very different sport.

  • Comment number 32.

    I read through the different posts and I don't get why criticism of the Premier league is somehow considered "anti-english"? - comments like the usual boring anti-english sentiment etc...

    And for Mr. Beattie - if his theory is based on :
    "My theory on countries is that we are all just split up by lines that someone drew on the ground hundreds of years ago" Then he could maybe at least include about half of France in his league?

    If a "random draw" concerns matches against the likes of Clermont, stade francais, perpignan or Toulouse then it is nothing to turn your nose up at.

  • Comment number 33.

    To Adam Meehan

    I'd much prefer to watch Leicester vs Wasps than Ulster vs Connacht.. Any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    Slightly silly comparison...

    And to Paul Delaney: Celtic nations World Cup performances haven't been too great recently... Perhaps a combined league would help them with that?

  • Comment number 34.

    I dont think its a good idea. 6 six tri nations is for countries so its obviously going to be smaller. If make a british league then whos the french going to play against? Im south african so if the format was like the super14 it could work but each country should still have their own league or else a lot of rugbyplayers would be taken out of the game cos of there wud be just a few teams in the league.

  • Comment number 35.

    You have argued the merits well however I personally think it's unnecessary. I don't know why people always think bigger is better. Undoubtedly if the teams start to play each other more often, some of the lustre is lost from the ties. The six nations is so enthralling because of the tribal fury and one-off nature of the matches. The Heineken Cup captures this so well and to create a British league would render it redundant to the detriment of all involved eventually, especially the fans.

    Judging by the comments on this board, the Welsh, Irish and Scottish are all happy with the Magners and the Premiership fans are more than happy with the club system. Yes by and large the quality of rugby is poor at the moment but things change and evolve and none of you can seriously tell me you have seen many more exciting games than Harlequins v Sale this season. That shows that the capacity for attacking rugby is there, AND with two majority english teams (Sale started the game with 10 Englishmen, 4 Welshmen and 1 Tongan, Quins had 12 English qualified starting)

    As far as English teams underestimating Magners League teams, I imagine its hard for them not to. In the last 4 years the GP has had Northampton, Saracens, Wasps, Leicester and London Irish into the Semi-Finals with only Leinster and Munster providing ANY resistance (two genuine heavyweights who deserve everything they get)so it figures the pundits would see them as favourites in nearly every instance.

  • Comment number 36.

    I see no advantage for the Celts in being linked with England. Further, I would strengthen the Magners League by inviting Cornwall and Brittany to join, thereby strengthening the ML's Celtic credentials.

  • Comment number 37.

    "but if I try to glimpse into the future then I think I see logic to a British and Irish league. "

    Logic? What logic? You would have a league of about 24 teams and were is the sense in that? and dont you dare mention regionalisation after watching what it did to Welsh club rugby. There is no way in the world we in England would get rid of our club game just so the celtic teams get a bit more TV money.

    I think you are looking at this though Heineken Cup eyes, when Tigers play Ospreys in that cup you expect a full house everytime, top players and a great atmosphere. Would that be the same if it was East Midlands (minus its best players rested for the HC) V Ospreys (again resting players for the bigger games) on a wet Friday night so Scrum 5 can cover it because Sky are not interested?

    Theres nothing wrong with the Magners league and there is nothing wrong with the English Premiership so why change it? given the very low opinion most Celts on here seem to have regarding Premiership teams and English rugby in general why would you want to be playing us every week?

  • Comment number 38.


    Great comments. I think that the club game in England has suited England well and I suppose we look on it with a bit of envy in some ways. What the "top down" approach has meant in Scotland specifically - regionalisation - is that both Edinburgh and Glasgow are principally Scottish teams.

    The logic is trying to forecast what might happen in GB given what has happened around the world. Nobody foresaw the Tri Nations, Argentina are joining them, the Magners league of itself is bigger than our three Celtic leagues and in effect operates above that. Italy made it Six Nations and strengthened it.

    I just don't go with the anti English sentiment. English club rugby is very, very strong and it always has been. The English league is strong, but I suspect that a very strong British league would blow our little socks off.

    There are times when teams don't field there best players, but I guess that happens everywhere - hello Arsenal.

    Gwyrangon - I'll have a pint of what you are on please my friend


  • Comment number 39.

    Bloody hell. I am irish and i consider the magners league to be better then the GP or even the top 14 however!

    I would love to see a league involving irish, welsh, scots and english.

    it would be great for northern hemisphere rugby IMO to see the best teams play each other week in week out would be awesome.

    However... who would control this setup? for me this is where the major problems would be. Each union has the own goals and are run completely different in some cases. How could they ever agree? for instance, how many foreign players per team? As i understand the irish union is setup with the idea always on bring players up to the International team. Thus providing the best national team they can. Regardless of if it works or not or if you agree, there modes operandi is to strengthen the national team.

    The GP seems more like the footy premier league in that the clubs seem intent on buying the best players in order to win there league. So if Irish teams were to join "total league" this would countermand their goals...

    Maybe im totally over thinking it.

    Anyway i would love to see a total league of the four home nations. i think it would be cracking! and sure to produce really good rugby and maybe even strengthen the national teams.

    BUT if it ever happens... PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE..... BBC its in your hands!!! PLEASE dont let sky sports buy the rights... THAT WOULD BE A CRIME.

  • Comment number 40.

    And why would the Celts vote for it?. At best we would see half a dozen teams getting admitted. That would shift the centre of gravity for Celtic Rugby and leave a number of other Celtic clubs out in the cold.
    When football went professional about 120 years ago the concept of a team from Belfast travelling to, say, Blackburn, or Sunderland for a league match was unimaginable. Horse and buggy, train, tram, ship, train, tram, hotel, and so on. And look at what happened to Irish football. But, as John recognises, modern travel revolutionises the logistics, so freeing up the ‘fringe’ from reliance on the ‘centre’. Soon there will be two Italian teams in the Magners.
    If I had any say, I would aim, in time, to extend an invite to Spain or Portugal to consider how they could participate. It would do a lot to raise their standards. Given time, we will have a “European” League, the EPL and the French League. More likely a set of play offs, than a B&I league.
    And as for playing the English, sure we love it in Belfast. Always a very warm welcome extended…..

  • Comment number 41.

    Personally I feel the standard of the English league is living in the shadow of the magners league. The standard of players playing in the magners league is far superior to the english league. AS an ulsterman I would certainly rather see (for a neutrals point of view) watch munster vs leinster kick lumps out of each other through the use of the fowards while the backs have great attacking flare such as kearney , nacewa , earls , o'driscoll ,darcy, howlett ,horgan ,de villiers and fitzgerald all of whom are world class players while paul o'connell tears into the leinster pack. Out of the english and magners league LENISTER AND MUNSTER HAVE THE BEST TWO SQUADS OF PLAYERS GOING AT THE MOMENT while i believe the french teams in the heineken cup are also very strong and an outsider for the heineken cup would be ospreys with a great team also for eg bowe,williams etc but hopefully ulster can prove their worth and repeat their success of a few years back.

  • Comment number 42.

    The original Kimble - yes, I think you are right. I go to Portugal on holiday sometimes and visiting Cascais a few years ago they told me how the Portuguese match with the All Blacks was one of the most popular sporting events on TV of all time in their country. We write them off at our peril, and we will also see other teams get up the ladder.

    Grandslamwinnas - the English teams are strong as well and I like the cross border rivalry as well as the local ones and I see the French are bringing in a salary cap.

    But to stick with the biggest possible picture, our biggest rugby stage is still the British and Irish Lions and I think it would be great to reflect a league which represents that,


  • Comment number 43.

    Dear John
    I would love to see the magners and the guiness leagues combine. Watching matches like Leinster v Leicester on a weekly occurence would be fantastic. In addition, I think that some cheerleaders in the magners and the guiness league certainly would not go amiss.

  • Comment number 44.

    'Bring in the Irish, Welsh and Scottish'

    In the likes of Dickinson, Kerr, Murray, Lawson(s), Strokosch, Gray, Grove, Ansbro, Mcrae - M Jones, C Jones, Lewis-Roberts, Broster, Gill, Cockbain, James, Owen, Delve, Peel, Fury, Strange, Robinson, Thomas, Macleod, Williams - Andress, Black Casey, Stevenson, Best, Mcmillan, Wilson, Hickey, Staunton, Everitt, Downey & the Murphy(s) the GP already has quite a lot...

    Stormy, do you not have a problem with the likes of LS essentially parasitising off the English system?

    Obviously can't see the GP teams joining as there'd have to be mergers, if not the season would go on for ever.

    As for the commentary of Will Greenwood, I can understand the concern over his bias, but imo it's a good deal more impartial than BBC Wales, Scotland or RTÉ. Another good reason for independence all round, our own channels...

  • Comment number 45.

    to be honest, i dont think joining the english premiership would be any good for any of the celtic teams. At the moment i would say the magners league is a better league. I dont know where john got the idea that everyone else wants to play with the english, living in wales i can certainly say that we are more than happy playing in the magners league. Also to the person who said he would rather watch leicester vs wasps rather than ulster vs connacht, obviously you would but i would rather watch ospreys vs munster or blues vs leinster than newcastle vs worcester or leeds vs bath. Pointless comparing the best teams of the GP to maybe the worst in the ML. IF they did join together, it takes the edge off of the Heineken Cup and the anglo/welsh.


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