The English Premiership Vs The PRO12
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Who comes out on top?
Despite two Irish teams in the Semis of Europe, the English and the French made the Final. And though all neutrals will be cheering Clermont, Saracens are huge favourites with the bookies.
So if we have another year of a Premiership team as European champions we have another year of the English saying their league is the best. But is this true? Let’s compare the Pro 12 to the English Premiership.
The Lions Share
In the Lions selection there are 21 players from the PRO12, 19 from the Premiership and 1 from the Top 14. And though it’s not specifically relevant apart from bragging rights, 24 of the 41 Lions are from PRO12 countries-because some of those 24 guys are playing in the Premiership, and Halfpenny is away in France.
It could certainly be argued that this is only evidence of Gatland’s Welsh bias, and if less Welsh were selected it would mean more English on the plane. But nonetheless, these are the rules, and the selectors have spoken: The PRO12 has more top domestic players than the Premiership.
The unbeatable logic.
The argument some Premiership fans, and most Premiership coaches make is that they find it harder to do well in Europe against PRO12 teams because they are too bruised and battered by the English Premiership. While in contrast the Celts are left in relatively good nick by their inferior competition.
So if a Premiership side is outperformed in Europe it’s because the English domestic league leaves them with no energy left to compete. And if they do beat PRO12 sides, well then it’s proof they’re better than them. So by that logic it’s a Win Win-the English sides are better no matter which way you look at it. Which is clearly ridiculous.
It’s often claimed the PRO12 can’t be as competitive as the Premiership because it has two Italian sides. And it’s true that the run of form of Treviso and Zebre has been less than stellar-they have only won 4 and 3 games respectively so far this season.
But before we rush to judgment bear in mind that the bottom two teams in the Premiership, Worcester and Bristol, have only won 8 games between them. And much maligned Zebre, used as the example to hit the PRO12 over the head with, actually beat Worcester twice last year in the Challenge Cup. Not to mention also beating defending champions Connacht recently.
At the end of the day the PRO12 can’t compete with the Premiership when it comes down to hard cash. Bristol may be bottom of the table but they have Ian Madigan and Pat Lam joining them at the end of the season. While Worcester can afford Ben Te’o, who rumour has it can be quite handy.
It’s worth saying that names like Piutau and Sexton command Premiership level wages in the Pro12, and they’re not insignificant exceptions. But if bank balances decided rugby competitions then England and France would win every World Cup. At least that’s what the PRO12 sides have to keep telling themselves. And looking at this year’s European championship they could just be a season or two off proving the Premiership’s money advantage isn’t advantage enough.