Foreign legion will continue to push out younger Irish talent
THE Heineken Cup is the perfect testing ground for up-and-coming Irish talent to determine whether they have what it takes to step up to international level.
However, going back to the early days of Rhys Ellison and Dean Oswald, the competition has also been a regular showcase for overseas players in the provinces, with the likes of Trevor Halstead, Rocky Elsom and Isa Nacewa having profound influences on Irish success in Europe.
Moves to restrict the number of non-Irish qualified players are to be welcomed, with a view to strengthening the national team, but the imports still have a crucial role to play and there are a clutch of them gearing up to do so again in this season's competition.
IRELAND'S HEINEKEN CUP OVERSEAS XV: Isa Nacewa (Leinster); Doug Howlett (Munster), Lifeimi Mafi (Munster), Henry Fa'afili (Connacht), Simon Danielli (Ulster); Miah Nikora (Connacht), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster); Heinke van der Merwe (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), BJ Botha (Munster); Steven Sykes (Leinster), Johann Muller (Ulster); Pedrie Wannenburg (Ulster), Ray Ofisa (Connacht), George Naoupu (Connacht).
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Famous surnames in this year's Heineken Cup squads:
Writers and poets: Keats (Aironi), Homer (London Irish), Swift (Connacht), Burns (Gloucester), Shaw (Glasgow), Vidal (Treviso), Archer (Munster).
British Prime Ministers: Blair (Edinburgh), Baldwin (Saracens), Brown (Harlequins), McMillan (Bath), Wilson (Northampton).
Military leaders: Kitchener (Leicester), Nelson (Ulster), McArthur (Glasgow).