Well, with the next Heineken Cup games not taking place until December the focus returns to the Rabo12. All 4 provinces did well in their matches (though Leinster were playing Connacht) making it another good weekend for Irish rugby.
It was a very close game between Leinster and Connacht! Connacht were leading for most of the game and Leinster only got the advantage when Connacht had 2 players sent off towards the end of the game. Connacht conceded a penalty try to lose the match, 16-13.
Connacht have really come around since a poor start to the season and have put in 3 great performances in a row (almost beating Saracens, thrashing Zebre and a close loss to Leinster).
Unfortunately, Connacht’s poor form earlier in the season has left them bottom of the Rabo table, with 5 points. Leinster were lucky to get the win after a poor performance. Leinster are 5th in the Rabo table, with 18 points.
Munster are currently top of the Rabo table , with 22 points. They beat Glasgow in another close game, 13-6. Glasgow were leading 6-3 going into the 2nd half, but Munster came back, through out-half JJ Hanrahan.
Hanrahan scored all Munster’s points, with a converted try and 2 penalties. Munster are back on top form after a slow start to the season.
Ulster got the biggest score of the weekend (for the Irish teams), beating Cardiff Blues, 39-21. Ulster dominated the match, scoring 5 tries. Ulster’s win puts them 4th in the Rabo table, with 20 points.
All the provinces have matches next week, but the provinces will be without their international players for those games. All the players chosen for the November Series test squad are been rested before the tests are due to take place.
Leinster will be the most affected by this. Leinster have about 16 players on the international squad, almost their full first team! Munster and Ulster have about 7 each, while Connacht only has 1 player on the Ireland squad!
This is when having the best players can be to your detriment. We’ll see how the teams peform without their stars. The provinces have 2 matches during the 5 weeks the players are on international duty.
Speaking of the top players, new changes have been made which will weaken the provinces negotiating power when contracts come up for renewal. Since 2002, tax breaks were implemented on the players income, provided they stayed in the country.
These conditions have been removed, meaning the players get the same breaks no matter where they play. This will lessen the incentive for players to remain in the country when overseas teams offer them bigger salaries.
There is a real threat of a mass exodus of players signing with big overseas teams. The provinces already can’t afford to match the big salaries offered by overseas teams. They will have even less chance if the Heineken Cup is disbanded and now they will have nothing to offer the top players.
Irish rugby will really suffer if our best players emigrate. It will be like the 1990’s, when most of the players joined English clubs. This was probably the worst decaded for Irish rugby in terms of results and the provinces were little more than an after-thought.