IT may seem like better late than never, but at least Munster will now have the services of Jason Holland available to them for their final Heineken Cup Pool games against Castres and Harlequins.
"We had a request from Munster to look at his (Holland's) situation in the light of him becoming available to play for Ireland," an ERC spokesman said on Friday. "And the regulations allow it in that if he's eligible to play for a European country then he should be available to play in a European competition as a European player."
Holland only attained this status, on the basis of residency, shortly before Ireland A played New Zealand A in Ravenhill a couple of weeks ago. That, of course, was too late for the registration date for the Heineken Cup.
This looked particularly unfortunate given the injury to Rob Henderson. Holland had to replace him, and in the process Munster were forced to use up one of their two available spots for overseas players. With Jim Williams and John Langford in the background, somebody was going to lose out.
It was Langford who ended up as a spectator, though team manager Jerry Holland maintained that they knew this all along. "We were never under any illusions that Jason was eligible from the start - we knew he wasn't," the manager maintained on November 3. He reiterated too that Langford would be back in good time for the resumption after Christmas. This time round he might even get a game.
TOMORROW'S announcement of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup draw may well be the last of its kind. On the one hand somebody in the Branch is bound to wake up to the fact that to make the draw in public - rather than announce something that took place in private over a week ago - makes good pr sense for a competition that is the province's major cash cow. More importantly, however, this could well be the last time the Cup is run off in its current format.
The schools section has formed a sub committee to look at the structure of a competition which, year in year out, provides a winner from the same handful of schools. Not since De La Salle Churchtown were victorious in the mid 1980s has the trophy strayed out of the hands of Blackrock, Terenure, Clongowes and St Mary's.
"It may involve a three tier system or it might be a back door route - we don't know yet," says Fr Joe Gough of the schools section. "We'll be taking soundings from a number of quarters and we're open to opinions from anyone who has an interest. We're concerned that for too many schools there is a lot of hard work and preparation being put in only to lose out in the first round and that's the end of it. We're also concerned about the state of rugby in some of the long established schools. We're aware that some need help to keep the game alive there."
IN keeping with the rise and rise of the game throughout the land, facilities for both players and spectators in the provincial grounds are due an upgrade. At last Leinster are closer to redeveloping Donnybrook, and while they still are some distance from submitting plans for approval, the prospect of a new stand and extended terracing - covered on the side opposite the stand - now looks real.
In Munster's Musgrave Park there is a plan to replace the existing and antiquated stand with a new structure incorporating dressing rooms, a gym and an office area, while in Thomond Park the plan is to extend the terracing at the Ballynanty end of the ground.
It's in the West, however, where the need is greatest. "Bord na gCon plan to redevelop the stand and I understand that it will include hospitality - along the lines of what you have in Shelbourne Park," says Noel Murphy, the Union's grounds sub-committee. "On the other side of the field then there will be new offices, a gym and medical facilities going in."
Ulster is perhaps the best equipped, though Ravenhill is hampered by a lack of space. There has been ongoing talks of ambitious plans involving a redevelopment on-site, or moving to a greenfield site in partnership with a private consortium. So far they are saying nothing.