Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: European cup, RWC 2011, South Africa, Super 15 rugby, World Cup
Super rugby, the competition for the top 15 Southern Hemisphere regional teams, has announced a new format for next season. There is one new team for this year, the Melbourne Rebels, and there will be a three conference format.
This means that in the regular season each team will play 12 of their 16 games in their home country, with home and away fixtures, before moving to a play off system. This will boost crowds and reduce the debilitating effects of travelling abroad.
In a World Cup year, there are fears that the international players might be asked to do too much, with Tri Nations games following straight after the competition. This will require careful management of playing time, but it is unlikely that the All Blacks will risk resting players in the way they did in 2007.
I think this new format gives Sanzar national selectors the best opportunity to look at a broad range players. Certainly the standard of rugby is improving. Will the Heineken Cup be able to match this?
After watching the Tri Nations tournament, I think the answer is no. Even though the South Africans have had a poor tournament by their high standards, they were kings of the Super 14 last season. A few selection tweaks and they might be too far ahead of their European counterparts.
The English teams need to go into a similar tournament as the Super 15, with the top sides from the Six Nations battling it out. The Welsh regions could go down to three teams, the Irish three teams, and the French could have four. Italy and Scotland two. If the English had four teams, then that would make 18 teams. A conference system could mean 14 week season, with a play off. Then into the Six Nations, with the normal clubs going into their own competition.
Radical I know and would not happen because of all the politics concerned. It is interesting to speculate who would make up the regional teams. Here is my selection:
England: Bath (west country), Leicester (midlands), Wasps (south london), Saracens (north london)
Wales: Ospreys (west wales), Cardiff (central wales), Newport (east wales)
Ireland: Munster, Ulster, Leinster
Scotland: Glasgow, Edinburgh
Italy: Aironi, Treviso
France: Paris, Toulouse, Bairritz, Clermont
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