Rugby – IRFU planning 8 team All Ireland League

Leinster v Connacht - Junior Interprovincial

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

FOLLOWING on from Brendan Fanning’s excellent piece in the Sunday Independent with David Nucifora, on March 6. Game Over Ball Burst understands that the IRFU are planning a major overhaul of the All Ireland League in 2018, with the preferred option being an 8 team league, with teams being ‘invited’ to be part of the new look structure.

With every passing season, the All Ireland League (currently five divisions of 10 teams) is awaiting direction from the IRFU as to what is the future of the competition. The most current ‘rumour’ in play, was that the league would be re-structured for the 2016/17 season into two top tiers of ten teams, with the rest of the All Ireland sides (30) heading back to Provincial senior leagues.

With the IRFU believed to be in favour of just 8 teams in a top division, it seems that the earliest a change would not be made until the 2017/18 season. How exactly the IRFU plan to ‘invite’ eight teams into a new look league is open for debate.

The simple maths approach would be to have two teams from each province. Going on present league standings, that would look like this.

Eight team league – 2 teams per province – Clontarf/UCD (Leinster), Young Munster/Cork Con (Munster) Ballynahinch/Ballymena (Ulster) and Galwegians/Buccaneers (Connacht)

However, names such as Lansdowne, Garryowen and indeed multiple time winners of the competition, Shannon, would all miss out in this structure.

There is also a case for starting with 8 and allowing the winners of the provincial leagues get ‘promoted’ into the league.

Whichever way the IRFU decided to restructure the league, clubs and the governing body are all in agreement on one thing. What ever is best for the players, is best for Irish rugby. With some coaches in the All Ireland league more qualified (IRFU accreditation pathway) than some in the professional game, the area for attention is not coaching at clubs or provincial level, but the game management of players who are paid by provinces and linked to clubs. That is what the new restructure needs to have at it core.

Watch this space.




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