Following months (and probably years) of difficult negotiations a new tournament - The European Rugby Champions Cup has emerged. A key driver for a new tournament has been the perceived unfairness of qualification through the Pro 12 that has allowed the Celtic nations to mind their players for the Heineken Cup because of the absence of competition in their 'domestic' league. In a post back in November last year I presented evidence of the lower playing load enjoyed by Pro 12 stars compared with their English and French counterparts.
It appears next season the losers will be Scottish, Welsh and Italian clubs. Wales was guaranteed three clubs in the Heineken Cup (out of 4 teams in the Pro 12). Both of the Scottish clubs in the Pro 12 were guaranteed a place. Both Italian clubs were guaranteed entry also. Three of the four Irish teams were guaranteed entry. Based on the current standings it now looks like there will be 3 Irish teams (Munster, Leinster and Ulster), one Scottish team (Glasgow), two Welsh teams (Ospreys and Scarletts) and one Italian team (currently Zebre). The teams that would have qualified but now won't are Cardiff, Edinburgh and Treviso.
This of course is a snapshot as the affected clubs will change each year. The big winner may well be the Pro 12 as a whole. While they lose places at the top table of European rugby the league now becomes fiercely competitive. There cannot a case where clubs would field 'weakened' teams in the Pro 12 as they were comfortably placed to get through for the Heineken Cup the following season. Instead of competing to finish above at least one of the other clubs from your country, Irish, Welsh and Scottish clubs now have to compete with the entire league to win European places, and the money associated with that. This is the position that English and French clubs have always faced. It means there are likely to be much fewer dead rubbers in the Pro 12 next year. If you agree that competition improves standards, quality and attendances then the Pro 12 can expect a fillip.