Almost impossible for Irish to compete in Europe - Gordon D'Arcy's worrying assessment ahead of new season
Three-time European champion Gordon D'Arcy has expressed grave doubts about the Irish provinces' ability to compete on the European stage, declaring it "almost impossible" to see an Irish side reach the knock-out stages this season.
No Irish side reached the quarter-final stage last season for the first time since 1998 and the retired centre believes that wipe-out will be extended as the English and French continue to flex their muscle.
"They decided to follow the Champions League model, smaller groups, smaller competition and try to expand the second tournament. They have got what they wanted and it is nearly impossible to get out of your group now.
"Most of these groups will be over by Christmas. The days of fighting until the last round to my mind are largely gone.
"They've made it almost impossible for Irish teams, Scottish teams too, to qualify. There's been a momentum swing in the power struggle.
"England and France wanted more control and that is what they got and it is impossible for Ireland and the Celtic nations to deal with that.
"The goalposts have changed, England and France have got stronger and the Celtic nations have largely stood still. It is 40pc more difficult for Irish teams to qualify. It is pretty depressing. If you are not backed by a billionaire, you are struggling."
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