No Heineken and stuck with Covid


Report By Frank Quinn

The 25th Heineken Cup is at the business end with semi finals and the final to come

No Irish teams have made it through - Ulster succumbed to Toulouse in France and Leinster went under to Saracens at the Aviva stadium in the quarter finals.

It is only the fourth time this century that we do not have a team in the SF / F - it is a very enviable record - but we came up short in 2020, we won the cup on 7 of the 24 editions to date.

We have retained an Irish interest through Racing 92 with Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan set to be in the match squad and Mike Prendergast on coaching staff. They meet Saracens in the semi final on home territory in Paris.

Racing has reliable kickers in Iribaren and Machenaud and a host of talent including: Thomas, Finn Russell, Trinh -Duc, Imhoff and Dulin They were beaten finalist in 2016 and 2018, so they have a good track record and need to go one better this time.

Semi Final Betting: Racing 92 @ 4/6, Saracens 13/10 - Exeter 8/13 Toulouse 7/5
The Exeter price - for new-comers - looks tight for a favourite because Toulouse has Heieneken experience with four wins and some classy players with flair. On this reasoning Toulouse looks the better bet

2019 ended badly at the RWC in Japan and Joe Schmidt departed for new pastures. The 2020 start was not much better for the Irish team and the virus kicked in to disrupt the season in mid March. There will be a restart in October to try to finish off the 6N season to determine the finishing positions and split the spoils of the prize money.

In September the Guinness PRO14 picked up the baton and finished off the 2020 league part, a bit truncated but in a fairish way. Leinster was still there unbeaten and remained in this state by taking care of Munster twice and then Ulster in the final at the Aviva with no audience. The Champions Leinster retained their title comfortably.

The quarter final against Saracens was a huge let down for themselves and their fans.

So here we are looking forward to the finish of the 2020 6N and some salvation. The home game against Italy has been rescheduled as has the away game in Paris against France, this is our opportunity to salvage something and end the season on a high international note.

All the fixtured games carry a virus warning at this stage - just wait and see and all the countries involved are engaged in the Covid 19 battle.

The question of attendances at the test matches is unresolved for rugby and at the other Major sports events scheduled before the year end. It does look as if we expect to get our sport on TV only if the stations would just resolve their financial requirements and difficulties, and put on the games.

The financial difficulties facing sports associations are being well documented and passed to the Government for a resolution (financial bailouts) in the middle of the massive pandemic costs. It remains to be seen what values our coalition government puts on sport vis.a vis. Business and jobs.

The IRFU stands in this line having negotiated with the players over salary cuts for 2020 and beyond. They will have looked at the total cost of the professional setup of €56 million (in accounts for April 2019) out of an income of €87 million. We can expect more salary cuts and savings and reductions of squad sizes.

A further across the board 20% cut would yield €11 million towards the cost of Covid 19 and an astute IRFU management group would get that back in a couple of years, while still maintaining our Clubs and World Rugby standing.

The accounts for April 2020 have not been released for the obvious Covid 19 reason or the change of President which is now due. It will not make good bedtime reading.