Here’s looking forward to the best Super Duper year ever
Irish Times rugby correspondent Gerry Thornley has a whimsical look at what the next year holds for players, clubs and countries
Leinster, Munster and Ulster reach knockout stages of the Heineken Cup but are all paired away from home in the quarter-finals. The Welsh regions confirm their split from the WRU to join revolutionary new Anglo-Welsh-South African League. Before they go, they discover a fan behind the posts at one of their games and launch an inquiry.
While France beat England in Paris, Ireland and Wales set up second round shoot-out at the Aviva with opening home wins over Scotland and Italy. Warren Gatland is warmly applauded by Irish fans. To muted applause, Brian O’Driscoll scores match-winning injury-time try from Jamie Heaslip offload.
England, with a 60-point win in Rome, win Six Nations on points difference in four-way tie after injury-depleted Ireland (missing 23 players) lose in Paris. George Hook says Joe Schmidt must go. England are made favourites for the World Cup 2015 on home soil.
Leinster and Munster set up Heineken Cup final with semi-finals wins away to Saracens and Clermont. The PRL chief executive, Mark McCafferty, reaffirms Premiership Rugby’s intention to boycott the 2014-15 Heineken Cup and cites the weekend’s results as “endemic of everything that is wrong about an ERC-run Heineken Cup”.
In the last Heineken Cup final ever, Leinster lead Munster by 22-19 going into overtime, but after a 53-phase attack, JJ Hanrahan lands a drop goal to force extra-time. After Hanrahan converts his own try in the second period of extra-time, the game goes in to overtime in extra-time.
Nigel Owens awards Leinster three successive penalties and after 72 phases, in their farewell appearances, O’Driscoll scores off a Heaslip pass by the posts. However, Owens insists that the TMO goes through all 72 phases before the try can be confirmed. The 9.00 news is cancelled. Eventually, Owens decrees that although the final pass went forward by 10 metres, as Heaslip was standing on the back of a French removal van when it left his hands, the try is permitted. Ian Madigan lands the conversion. The trophy is shared for posterity in Munster and Leinster.
After week-long round-the-clock negotiations, a new European Cup is formed with Paul Goze of the LNR appointed the new competition president and Mark McCafferty its new chief executive. As part of the new television deals with BT and beIN sport, all games involving English and French clubs will be played in England and France so as to maximise their revenue and maximise the role of the Irish supporters
The financial share-out for the participating leagues will see the PRL and LNR each receive 49 per cent, because they are the biggest and bring the most revenue/most spectators/most TV audience/ most TV revenue/most everything and because, well, they’re English and they’re French, so might is right.
Ireland win the first Test against Argentina.
As part of the PRL/LNR revolutionary new tournament format for the new, rebranded European Cup, it will be called the Super Duper Rugby Champions Cup and the matches will be scattered over entire weeks so that Nigel Owens can referee every match.
The Lions announce Warren Gatland will coach the Lions in New Zealand in 2017.
In the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks begin the defence of their crown with back-to-back wins over Australia.
The All Blacks beat Argentina 76-0 in the Rugby Championship as the Pumas are still in Brazil celebrating their country’s World Cup victory.
The All Blacks complete a clean sweep in the Rugby Championship with victory over South Africa. The new European Cup begins with four Irish provinces winning on the opening weekend against Saracens, Northampton, Toulouse and Racing Metro. After the latter’s defeat to Munster, Jacky Lorenzetti threatens to buy the entire Munster squad. The IRFU, strapped for cash, say he can have them.
Mark McCafferty and Paul Goze announce changes to the tournament format whereby English and French sides will henceforth have two extra players on the pitch, giving them 17-a-side, as they are the biggest and bring the most revenue/most spectators/most TV audience/ most TV revenue/most everything and because, well, they’re English and they’re French. The Irish sides are warned as to their future conduct. The IRB say they are keeping a watching brief.
Ignoring the warning, the four Irish sides win again. The PRL/La Ligue announce that, as a punishment, all the Irish sides will play their remaining pool games with 13 players, all blindfolded.
England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales beat All Blacks, Springboks, Argentina and Australia on historic first Saturday of autumnal window. England harden to 1/3 odds-on favourites for World Cup.
In the first of the back-to-back fixtures, 13-man Leinster earn a bonus point in defeat against 17-man Bath at a packed Rec. The Bath owner Bruce Craig insists that all 13 Leinster starters should be forced to move to the Rec and the new PRL/La Ligue governing body agree. The IRB maintain their watching brief.
A week later the 17-man Bath, with their 13 new Leinster recruits, record a bonus point in beating 13-man, second-string Leinster, and similarly outnumbered, Munster, Ulster and Connacht suffer the same fate to French and English opposition. McCafferty and Goze declare this the best Super Duper Cup ever.