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Irish rugby needs a change of season

It's not a perfect world. Many, including myself, have been frustrated at the speed of progression of this Irish rugby side over the past 12 months.

We all want to see our team compete with the best at the World Cup next year.

However, there are other factors involved which limit the northern hemisphere sides' ability to keep pace with their rivals on a perennial basis.

Without trying to look for excuses for Ireland's shortcomings and slow transition to a more open game, it has to be said that the gap between the two hemispheres is given every opportunity to remain constant because of the structure of the two seasons.

Ireland's inconsistency has to be put in context. Declan Kidney, I'm sure, would love a bit more time to prepare his squad, with a few more games thrown in.



UNWORKABLE

But that reality is unworkable at this point in our season.The southern hemisphere teams have the flow of the Super 14 and the Tri Nations series, where the level of rugby is almost impossible for sides here to replicate.

It does offer more momentum and most importantly, each competition runs its course before the other begins.

The stop-start nature of the season here cannot be beneficial for province or country. Despite long seasons at both ends, we also seem to fare a little worse from a physical standpoint.

Ireland looked out on their feet after the Australian game in June, even allowing for the number of injuries that hampered the tour.

In contrast, the southern teams all managed to look a little less weary during the November series of games. It seems they have the edge in more ways than one.

The idea of a global season, mooted by the Welsh Rugby Union a few years ago, would certainly be one way to level the playing field.

The novelty of the autumn games has begun to wear off. The idea is that we make these games more competitive, which would at least lend these "friendly" autumn fixtures a bit more credence.

By playing the two summer tours back to back in September/October you free up all the domestic competitions, Tri Nations, Super 14 and Six Nations (which would have the benefit of better weather around April/May).

This would leave all players a three-month summer gap for rest and pre-season training.

The nature of the beast dictates that we will always struggle to compete in this part of the world, as players continue to hop back and forth between their respective provincial and international teams.

The Heineken Cup is a superb competition, which rivals and even surpasses the Super 14.

However, the gaping difference that stands between the Six Nations and Tri-Nations competitions cannot be underestimated.

Both are steeped in history and are not for changing any time soon but the timing of each could be considered.

We can only hope that common sense, if not financial considerations, prevail in streamlining the seasons, which I believewould give everyone a more even playing field



inclement

Joe Schmidt would have had his hands full this week with returning squad members and injuries.

Throw in the inclement weather and a loss last weekend, and Leinster will travel off the back foot to the Scarlets for what is a must-win game if Leinster are to maintain contact with the top four.

Despite having played away against the Ospreys last weekend, a win would have been expected against the vastly understrength home side.

A combination of Leinster indiscipline and a malfunctioning set piece cost them a match they could well have won.

The likes of Devin Toner, Nathan Hines and Sean O'Brien will add much to the cause. No doubt both sides will try to play enterprising football, but the Scarlets' defence has improved of late so Leinster will not get things easy.

In a week of scuppered preparation and transition, it is important for the Blues to regain some momentum before the mammoth back to back clashes with Clermont Auvergne.


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