Peter Bills: Game still a far cry from professional
And so to Cardiff for the climax of the northern hemisphere season in professional rugby. With all due respect to the Magners League, French Top 14 and English Premiership, this has to be the peak of the northern hemisphere players' year.
But I suggest caution in too readily attaching the word 'professional' to the sport. Rugby might like to think it is up among the big boys of professional world sport but, in truth, it still retains far too many of its silly, amateurish idiosyncrasies.
Take Northampton, Leinster's opponents in the Heineken Cup final on Saturday. Still hanging over the English club is a suspicion that all kinds of nefarious activities and crafty goings-on are regularly enacted by their front-row. The Saints' scrum, with New Zealand-born England international Dylan Hartley at hooker and Zimbabwe-born South Africa international Brian Mujati at tight-head, is seen as one of their great strengths. But others have watched the tapes and talk darkly of their antics.